Recommended by:
4.5 out of 5

Public Wi-Fi is dangerous. Protect yourself with a Wi-Fi VPN

  • Securely connect to any Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Industry-leading encryption protects your data
  • A mobile VPN that defends you from malware
  • Increases internet speed by blocking ads

Public Wi-Fi isn’t safe

Wi-Fi does not demand physical infrastructure for each person who wants to connect. That’s why it’s great for libraries, cafes, and even homes. 

This also is what makes it unsafe. Wi-Fi does everything via radio signals. Hackers can easily intercept them and steal your logins and more. 

But there are tools that help you defend against Wi-Fi attacks. Protect yourself with a Wi-Fi VPN. 

How do hackers hack public Wi-Fi?

Man In The Middle Attacks

“Man-in-the-Middle” means that the hacker inserts themselves into your connection. MIM is probably the broadest category of Wi-Fi security threats.

Hackers often use legally obtained hardware and software designed to test network security. It is relatively cheap, as well. 

When a MIM attack happens, everything you do online is routed via the hacker’s device. This allows them to steal your data, route you to malicious pages, and more.  

Evil Twin

Evil Twins are some of the most dangerous MIM attacks. In this case, the hacker uses their own devices to impersonate a public Wi-Fi network.

For example, if you’re at the “Lonely Roads Cafe,” then the official Wi-Fi would be called “Lonely Road Cafe Wi-Fi.”

A hacker could set up a “Lonely Road Cafe Free Wi-Fi” network. This would allow them to steal information from confused or inattentive users who connect to it.

Wi-Fi Pineapples

Wi-Fi pineapples* is a type of MIM attack. They use special devices - called “pineapples” because the first one was hidden in a plastic pineapple - to mimic a Wi-Fi network. The device copies the network name (SSID) of a public Wi-Fi spot and acts as a fake router.

This allows the pineapple (fake router) to set up its own network that seems identical to the official one. To use the “Lonely Roads Cafe Wi-Fi” example, the new network would present itself as “Lonely Roads Cafe Wi-Fi” to your device.

So, if you have a favorite spot - like a library - and your phone or computer connects to its Wi-Fi automatically, your phone would connect to the pineapple (fake Wi-Fi) instead.

Compromised router

If a router at a cafe or library is not under guard, it may be compromised by hackers. Alternatively, the local employees can sabotage it and use it to spy on you.

Sometimes, it’s not even necessary to have physical access to the router. Software vulnerabilities exist and are constantly exploited.

And while manufacturers release patches for them, updates don’t happen automatically. If nobody cares about maintaining the router, its software might be dangerously out of date.

Packet sniffers

Packet sniffers, also known as packet analyzers, are used to wiretap networks. A hacker can use an antenna and a device running a packet sniffer to monitor the traffic on a Wi-Fi network - and see the data that is transmitted.

Malware injection

Some MIM methods allow hackers to inject malware into your device. Viruses, worms, and others can compromise your device. If malware infects your device, your personal data will be at constant risk - even when not using public Wi-Fi.

Cookie hijacking

Cookies are the small files on your device websites use to identify you. A hacker on an unsecured Wi-Fi network can grab the cookies being transmitted and insert themselves into the communication.

Sometimes, such attacks are used to steal personal information stored in the cookie. Other times, the cookies are used to impersonate you on a website - say, a bank, or email.

How can I protect myself on Wi-Fi?

Use a VPN

A WiFI VPN app encrypts your internet connection. This makes your data unreadable to any hacker that may steal it. If you use a VPN on an unsecured Wi-Fi, most of the tips mentioned below become unnecessary.

Disable file sharing

You should disable functionality that allows your device to easily send and download files without your knowing about it. It’s better to avoid AirDrop on iOS or automatic sharing of printers and files for PC while you use Wi-Fi.

Disable auto-connect

Hackers can clone the ID of the Wi-Fi network signal to trick your device. Always connect manually to avoid these traps.

Make sure it’s the right network

Hackers can name their networks similarly to public Wi-Fi hotspots. Ask the staff at your location to tell which exact network you should connect to.

Don’t use important services

Don’t use public Wi-Fi to log into your bank account or other sensitive services.

Avoid using passwords

Don’t log into any websites or services while on Wi-Fi to keep your passwords secret. If you need to do it, use a password manager that encrypts your passwords or a service that uses two-factor authentication.

Update your software

Whether you’re using a phone or a computer, keep their operating system updated. As flaws are discovered, developers patch their products - but it doesn’t help if you don’t apply the update.

Enable the firewall

Using firewalls seems like a hassle, but it is the basic barrier for hackers. At least turn on whatever firewall is already installed in the device.

Use an antivirus

An antivirus can’t prevent your data from being stolen via MIN attacks. However, it helps to deal with any malware that gets implanted on your device.

How does a VPN protect me on Wi-Fi?

Encryption

A VPN app turns all the information leaving your device into an unreadable mess. A hacker may use a pineapple or some other means to steal it, but he won’t be able to read and use it. 

Hiding IP

When you use a VPN, the world sees the internet address of the VPN server. Your device’s IP remains a secret, which increases your privacy.

VPN on Wi-Fi: Here’s How You Use It

Download and install a VPN client.

Log in and click “connect.”

Use Wi-Fi safely.

Things to look for in a good Wi-Fi VPN

Kill-Switch

This feature disconnects you from the internet if the VPN protection drops. That way, you don’t start sending unencrypted data by accident.

Modern protocols

protocols define the way VPN secures your connection. Look for VPNs that use IKEv2 and OpenVPN. Avoid LT2P, IPSec, or PPTP as they’re old and not secure.

Encryption

Encryption strength is defined in bits. Industry-leading VPNs use 256-bit encryption.

No-logs policy

Look for a VPN provider that doesn’t keep a record of your online activities.

Platforms

A good Wi-Fi VPN should have apps for all major OS platforms: Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and so on.

Price

Free VPNs are never as secure and trustworthy as paid ones because maintaining security costs money.

Benefits of a Wi-Fi VPN

Send and receive files securely

As your connection is encrypted, the hackers can’t steal your files as they would be unable to access them.

Don't get locked out of your bank

Banks are suspicious about logins from new locations. A mobile VPN allows you to access your account as if you were back home.

Block ads & malware

If you hate internet ads, then a good Wi-Fi VPN like Surfshark can block them. It works especially well to get rid of ads that follow you from website to website. Surfshark also blocks malicious websites.

Increase speed

We already mentioned blocking ads. Surfshark does that even before they’re downloaded, thus increasing the speed of your Wi-Fi connection.

Wi-Fi VPN FAQ

What is a Wi-Fi VPN?

It’s a virtual private network (VPN) that you can use to protect yourself while browsing on a public Wi-Fi network. It is distinct from, say, a VPN that is established to allow you to connect to your work network but doesn’t protect anything else you do.

Can you use a VPN on Wi-Fi?

Yes, there is nothing that prevents you from using a VPN on Wi-Fi. If your device can support a VPN app, it can be protected.

Does VPN give you free Internet?

No, it does not. But a VPN can protect you while you’re using free Wi-Fi.

Get Surfshark VPN - your secure Wi-Fi VPN