Public places often provide free Wi-Fi and with data restrictions on carriers it is all too easy to use but is free wi-fi good or bad?
You may know of an old saying, stating that there is no such thing as free. Although free Wi-Fi doesn’t charge our clients often ask is free wi-fi good or bad? We want to give you the information so you feel more educated and to keep you safe.
We see instances of e-mails being hacked, ransomware corrupting drives requesting payment and often when we drill down to what the customer was connecting to it is often a result of connecting to free wifi. Once you connect to a free Wi-Fi service you open yourself up to the possibility of hackers watching what you are doing.
Hackers can access the same free Wi-Fi you connect to and monitor your online activities, such as logging into Online Banking, shopping accounts exposing the possibility of credit card details being cloned / stolen. E-mail chat being exposed, we recently read a scenario where an e-mail was received that looked legitimate to a couple asking for money to be transferred to complete a house sale and unfortunately the money was lost.
If you connect to a free Wi-Fi there is a possibility that the network is not secured and if a hacker managed to gain access to your machine they could install a keylogger. Once installed all your keystrokes will be recorded and sent to the hacker so any personal details sent could mean they can gain access to your accounts posing as you.
We had a customer who had their e-mail breached and the hacker had changed their password along with the security information that lets you reset the password. Getting back into these accounts mean you have to contact the respective mail services and provide information to prove it is you, often hackers change every bit of information they can find so this can make the process of getting the account back quite lengthy.
Am I at risk?
Everyone is at risk, no matter who you are a hacker will be interested in your information as there is always something they feel that would be a gain. Consider the benefits to the hacker if they go to a Hotel lobby and connect to a public Wi-Fi perform a scan for vulnerable devices and suddenly they have access to your data. Julia’s Facebook might not be interesting but Brian’s financial records could mean a number of things.
Hackers perform Social Engineering with information they gain access to. For instance you have an innocent spreadsheet on your laptop with information about transactions and pending work, a hacker gains access to this and then poses as you they e-mail a member of your team. The request comes through asking for a quick transfer and everything to your member of staff looks legitimate and the request contains expected information so goes ahead and sends the money to the requested account.
Quite often the money is gone, other times there are task forces that can recover money but we would advise contacting the police if you have been a victim of fraud.
I have no data, I need to connect?
Connecting to free Wi-Fi can be important, maybe you are on a data plan that only gives small amounts of data, or travelling abroad with no roaming access. WhatsApp has become a popular application for communicating to people across the world and the use of Wi-Fi can be a plus to travellers for this reason.
Maybe you are at a coffee shop and decide to do some work? The convenience of connecting while away from the office can be a plus and a lifesaver for people relying on technology. A quick blast of e-mail and checking your bank balance, surely this will be okay?
When connecting to any public Wi-Fi you have no control over the condition of the network, who else is connected and what devices are attached to the network so even a small amount of time can be enough to become a victim.
Did you know that someone can create an identical network with the same name devices may only show one connection? This means you could be connected directly to a hackers network therefore allowing them to see everything you do without your knowledge. Carl Hamilton - Managing Director CHTSI
What can I do to be safe?
Here are a few suggestions
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi – I know this isn’t always a possibility but if possible avoid contacting to unknown networks
- Use a Mobile Hotspot – If your network allows the tethering facility then connect to this, less possibility of being intercepted and your mobile network should be secure.
- Use a Travel Router – Most networks offer either a separate device to connect to or a dongle that plugs in, this can provide a connection similar to the Hotspot and allows a limited amount of usage.
- Subscribe to a VPN – a VPN which is known as a Virtual Private Network, offers a secure connection between you and the VPN server. This will encrypt the data sent over the Internet, reducing the possibility of a hacker snooping on your information.
- Avoid logging into banking and personal accounts while connected to a public network – Think, do I really need to do this now? Here you have to weigh the pros on cons if you think it isn’t vitally important then wait until you are home or use your mobile not connected to any Wi-Fi connection.
If you would like assistance setting up a VPN service or want to make sure your device is prepared to be used on public Wi-Fi then contact us via our online form or call 01423 423068