Why is it risky to use Free Public Wi-Fi Networks? - Towards Cybersecurity

There are two things that can destroy a perfect holiday : bad weather and waking up with an empty bank account. Unfortunately, I can't tell you how to hack the weather, but I can help you avoid getting hacked.

In this article, I am discussing why is it risky to use free public Wi-Fi networks. So, Let's begin.

Why is it risky to use Public Free Wi-Fi Networks? - Towards Cybersecurity

It's Sunday morning and you're hanging out at your local coffee shop using the free public Wi-Fi to catch up on a few tasks that you couldn't quite get to during your busy week. Sound familiar? This is a typical scenario for many of us but did you know, you might be unaware of some threats present in the background on free public Wi-Fi while you check the balance of your bank account. So, it is risky for you.

Public Wi-Fi can be found in popular public places like airports, coffee shops, malls, restaurants, and hotels and it allows you to access the Internet for free. Businesses have realized that providing free Wi-Fi to their customers is a great way to keep them in store for longer, spending money. These Wi-Fi hotspots are so widespread and common that people frequently connect to them without thinking twice. However, it sounds safe to login to your social media accounts or browses some news articles, everyday activities that require a login like reading e-mail or checking your bank account could be risky tasks on public Wi-Fi.

So, whether you have to connect to the free public Wi-Fi network or not? I have two simple words of advice don't and DON'T.
After so many warnings, headlines, and efforts to educate, many people still don't understand why connecting to free Wi-Fi is an incredibly dangerous situation regardless of what you're doing online. And while you may think 'okay, I'm not checking my personal email or logging into my bank account, I'm just checking the sports scores' remember anything you do on a public Wi-Fi network is NOT secure.
These are the common risks to use free public Wi-Fi:-
1. Rogue Wi-Fi Networks
2. Man-in-the-Middle Attack
3. Unencrypted Networks
4. Snooping & Sniffing
5. Malicious Hotspots
6. Malicious Attacks through Ad hocs

So, Let's talk about these common risks to use free public Wi-Fi in-detail.

1. Rogue Wi-Fi Networks
  • Rogue networks trick victims into connecting to what they think is a legitimate network because the name sounds reputable.
  • Say you're staying at the Goodnyght Inn hotel and want to connect to the hotel's Wi-Fi. At that time, you may think you're selecting the correct one when you click on "GoodNyte Inn" but you haven't.
  • Instead, you've just connected to a rogue Wi-Fi network set up by hackers who can now view your sensitive information.
  • So, this way hackers trap you.

Why is it risky to use Free Public Wi-Fi Networks? - Towards Cybersecurity

2. Man-in-the-Middle Attack
  • One of the most common threats on these networks is called a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack. (You can read more about Man-in-the-Middle attack here).
  • The biggest threat to free public Wi-Fi security is the ability of the hacker to position himself between you and the connection point.
  • So, instead of talking directly with the server, you're sending your information to the hacker, So what you thought was private is no longer.
  • This way hackers steal all your personal details, bank account details, credit card number, and all sensitive and personal information.
  • Advanced attackers may even redirect the user's browser to fake copies of legitimate websites.
Why is it risky to use Free Public Wi-Fi Networks? - Towards Cybersecurity

3. Unencrypted Networks
  • The meaning of the encryption is that the information that is sent between your computer and the wireless router is in the form of a "secret code" so that it can't be read by anyone who doesn't have the key to decrypt the code.
  • Most of the routers are shipped from the factory with encryption turned off by default, and it must be turned on when the network is set up.
  • If the network is set up by an IT professional, then chances are good that encryption has been enabled.
  • However, there is no accurate way to tell if this has happened.
4. Snooping & Sniffing
  • The risk of using free public Wi-Fi is hackers using special software kits enabling them to eavesdrop (secretly listen to someone's private conversation) on Wi-Fi signals.
  • This allows hackers to access everything that you are doing online from viewing whole webpages you have visited (including any information you may have filled out while visiting those webpages) to being able to capture your login credentials, and even hijack your accounts.
5. Malicious Hotspots
  • Not all public hotspots are legitimate. Hackers can create an open network with a name similar to that of a nearby hotspot, such as a restaurant or hotel name, and unsuspecting users may connect without a second thought.
  • Hackers can push malware by creating a popup or fake advertisement for a "free upgrade" to a piece of software.
  • Users think that this is a legitimate ad, sponsored by their hotel perhaps, only to find out later it was actually a trojan horse or malware.
  • If you enable file-sharing across a network, the hacker can easily plant infected software on your computer or on your smartphone.
  • some creative hackers have even hacked the network connection point itself, causing a pop-up window to appear on the screen during the connection process offering an upgrade of popular software and by clicking the pop-up window installs the malware.
  • So, this way malware distribution is happened by a hacker on Malicious Hotspots.
6. Malicious Attacks through Ad hocs
  • Ad hocs are peer-to-peer networks that connect two computers directly.
  • When remote workers use a free public Wi-Fi network, their devices are likely to be set to discover new networks, making it possible for hackers to connect directly to them.

So, These are the risks of using free public Wi-Fi networks.
Free public Wi-Fi is a boon to productivity and convenience for all of us, but it is not without its risks. It's easy for hackers to steal your login credentials, personal information and other sensitive data. So, don't use free public Wi-Fi and stay safe.
I hope you've enjoyed this article. If you have any questions or if you have any thoughts about free public Wi-Fi security then please mention in the comments section and I will get back to you and stay tuned with my blog to learn interesting things related to cybersecurity and hacking.

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