Why public WiFi hotspots are unsafe

Public WiFi can be a goldmine for dangerous lurkers posing security threats. It’s convenient, yet, dangerous to use while traveling or dining out in the city.

All the traffic within a public WiFi network is usually unsecured, meaning it does not use proper encryption to protect your internet data. Your sensitive information sent via unsecured WiFi network (such as credit card numbers, passwords, chat messages) becomes an easy target for hackers.

How can someone exploit your privacy over public WiFi

When it comes to stealing your data, hackers get quite creative. One of the ways they attack is called man-in-the-middle (MITM). Cybercriminals will create their fake public network. In most cases, the name will be similar to a name of the place with access to a public network (like a restaurant or hotel) nearby. Then, hackers will snoop on your private information and target data on your devices.

On top of that, hackers can install packet sniffing software. It is particularly dangerous because it records massive amounts of data which later can be processed on their demand.

Be aware that there are many other ways to undermine your privacy while you’re connected to a public WiFi. The internet is full of video tutorials and step-by-step guides on how to hack someone’s computer over a WiFi network.

Are all WiFi networks unsafe

All of the WiFi networks are vulnerable to hacking. If you are not alone using the network, chances are someone is spying on your online activities. At best it is your ISP, at worst – scammers lurking for your passwords, bank account details or other sensitive information.

In 2017 Belgian researchers discovered that WPA2 protocol used by the vast majority of WiFi networks is unsafe.

According to the report, the WPA2 protocol can be broken using novel attacks potentially exposing personal data.

The vulnerability can affect a broad range of operating systems and devices – including Android, Apple, Windows, Linux, OpenBSD, MediaTek, etc. Basically, if you have a device that connects to WiFi, it can be affected.

Is your ISP tracking you

Legal restrictions for ISPs to track users are vague in most of the countries in the World, it is particularly relevant in the US while net neutrality is revoked. Therefore, your ISP can manipulate your connection or use your personal data for whatever purpose they want. Without you ever finding out.

The situation is a little different in the European Union since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect. ISPs processing Europeans’ data must be compliant to the GDPR. They have to make sure they store personal data only with the consent and when it’s not linkable to an individual.

What can you do to protect your online identity

If you use public WiFi, protecting yourself is a necessity. We have prepared a few easy, but crucial tips to assure the safety of your online identity.

  • If it’s possible, avoid logging into sensitive accounts. If you must use public WiFi connection, do not log into your bank account or anywhere where you keep private information.
  • Turn off WiFi after you’re done using it. It’s a way to prevent your device from connecting to an unsecured network automatically.
  • Always turn off sharing services & use a firewall so others cannot access your data.
  • Use a VPN. It is the best option to shield your private information from cybercriminals. If you are connected to a VPN, your connection is secure even if you’re on a public WiFi hotspot.