It is often said that the best things in life are free; like love, friendship and public Wi-Fi. But the fact of the matter is that free public Wi-Fi can significantly reduce data breach protection and open your computer up to digital incursion. If you own and operate a business, an employee could unwittingly endanger the privacy and security of your network by just logging on to their work email at the airport!
Surprised to hear this? You aren’t alone. Turns out that more than 60 percent of consumers think their information is safe when using public internet and only half of consumer think it’s their responsibility to secure their information. Sad to say that this kind of thinking couldn’t be further from the truth.
Cybercriminals work most effectively when their victims are trusting and unaware. Hackers can steal your information via Wi-Fi in a few different ways. The first is through snooping.
Hackers Who Snoop
When you connect to an open Wi-Fi network (like the one at your favorite coffee shop), other users can see your activity including the websites you visit, the information you type into unencrypted web forms and sometimes even the files on your device. Snooping tools like Firesheep and Wireshark make it simple for hackers to spy on your activities and analyze traffic to and from your computer. Yikes!
Similarly, a hacker can create a bogus Wi-Fi hotspot, or honeypot network, to snare unsuspecting users. In other words, some crafty cyber crooks might create a malicious Wi-Fi network under the name “Coffee Guest 2.4GHz”. Once the victim clicks to connect, the hacker or ‘man in the middle’ is privy to all your corporate secrets.
Scams like this are motivating companies to invest in cyber policy insurance and data breach protection to defend their businesses from the most deleterious effects of cybercrime. Of course, it’s still better to block an incident from ever happening in the first place. Below are a few tips to safeguard your computer or network against hacker infiltration when using public Wi-Fi.
Thankfully, there are ways to protect yourself when using public Wi-Fi. The first suggestion is to use a virtual private network, or VPN, to encrypt and obscure traffic from your device. Don’t be fooled into believe that employing a web browser’s ‘incognito mode’ is enough to protect you. Privacy modes are primarily used by browsers to let sites and service know you wouldn’t like to be tracked, but it’s not enough to stop a hacker.
Downloading a personal VPN is easy, but some companies are taking things further by exerting company-wide VPN services for all their employees. This is a great way to boost your data breach protection and safeguard your information for remote and ‘work from anywhere’ employees.
Another suggestion is to turn off sharing from your system preferences or control panel. There are usually several options to identify the network to which you are connected including Home, Work or Public. Each offers its own permissions. Choosing the Home or Work setting opens your computer up to a greater level of sharing; while this is nifty when you need it, it’s very dangerous if you want to block hackers on the same network. Switch your connection to Public whenever you are using an unfamiliar Wi-Fi connection.
Finally, if you are going to use free public Wi-Fi (and chances are, you will), please take extra precautions regarding the sites you visit. Scrolling through news articles and Wikipedia probably won’t create too much of a risk, but checking your digital bank statements, shopping online or visiting your work email could. Stay cautious and stay aware.
If you believe you or one of your employees may have exposed sensitive information over an unprotected Wi-Fi connection, be sure to talk to your IT department or cyber policy provider right away. Happy surfing!