Is It Safe To Use A Public Wi-Fi?

Nowadays, you can find a network in any public location you visit. Even better is the fact that they are all free. While it seems like everyone loves free things, there are risks to the use of such networks which may not be all easy to overlook. We have put together a list of some of the most common ways public Wi-Fi can put you at risk.

The Use of Network Sniffers

Network sniffers are used to intercepting traffic between the user and the Wi-Fi network without knowledge from either end. They work by decrypting the data encrypted using a WPA2 encryption. The danger with these sniffers is that they obtain everything about a network including the network sessions, passwords and everything else. If someone has one of these, you are in trouble.

Data Gathering

Data from your online sessions can be gathered by any party that has the interest in that such as advertisers or hackers. It is sad that some of the most notorious data gathering parties are the providers of free Wi-Fi networks. They then use this data for their own needs one of which is giving it out to advertisers for a fee. Some of the ways they do so include;

  • Making requests to users to share some information through their social networking profiles. In this case, it may be sharing something the network specifically wants you to share such as the profile of the cyber café or name of the network. When you do so, it will be a way to have access to your social media profile for ads and other stuff.
  • Other free Wi-Fi networks are not actually free. For example, there are some that ask you to give up your contact information to access the network. They may ask for a simple thing such as your email address but will use it to target you for their ads. You may block them later but it will be after an annoying experience. Unless you want to use it for long, avoid such networks.
  • The use of cookies in secure browsers to track their history and target ads to them. For this reason, using the Wi-Fi network may seem free to you but you will then keep seeing a certain ad whenever you access your browser. If the Wi-Fi provider is evil enough, they may install any other type of software they want including malware.
  • Using on the Wi-Fi use to find the user behavior. Given that the particular Wi-Fi has a known location all that is needed for the provider to know a certain user’s actual location is the use of triangulation technology. In this way, the behavior of a customer will be easily known in the store as far as their movement is concerned. They can easily know how much time you spent at each location.

Illegal Access Points

Just because the name of a network lacks a padlock at the end does not mean you should log into it. You should consider many things in making this decision. The most obvious one is that you will be putting yourself at the risk of being hacked. Some hackers go as far as creating Wi-Fi hotspots that are free just to find a few victims then switch it off. If you find a network named cguikkjwdi, run away. Some of the ways they do this include:

  • Spoofing – spoofing occurs when a hacker creates a fake page of a known website such as Facebook then, as you log in, he steals your password before redirecting you to the actual Facebook. While the details of this hack are complex, they occur at the network level.
  • The Evil Twin Attack – we all know of the evil twin who always wreaks havoc in the name of the holy twin. By using a fake access point, the network can be used to steal your online sessions while making you think that it is the actual access point. For most people, this will occur without their knowledge. Always confirm the access point of the network before you use it.
  • For some networks – there are hackers who go as far as activating the cameras and other hardware parts of the computer to steal data they want. The dangerous part is that the routers to the public networks can be easily accessed and planted with bugs.

The good news is that you can protect yourself using various methods when using a public Wi-Fi network. With these methods, you are safe from any online threats that may come your way.

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