When there is WiFi hotspots in the coffee shops, airports, hotels, universities, libraries, and other public places, getting online has become cooler than ever. It is a usual scene now to see someone doing online shopping from the smartphone, tablet or laptop while waiting in the lounge of an airport. If you purchase something online, you have to disclose details of your credit card. Have you wondered how secured is the WiFi hotspot of the airport to reveal your financial details?
Troel Oerting, head of the European Cyber Crime Center at Europol, told BBC that people should not send sensitive information over public WiFi hotspots. Free WiFi is no doubt tempting. If it’s fast enough, nobody hesitates to check mails, make a quick payment or send a photograph in a public hotspot. Many of us think a second time to speak about the credit card information over phone in a public area, for the fear of eaves dropping. At the same time we don’t give a damn to share that same information online from free WiFi zones. It is a common conception that internet transactions are secure and private. Remember, most of these public WiFi networks are paradise for hackers as well. They can easily monitor what you are doing in your devices.
When there is an information security threat, why then more and more business owners are coming up with free internet access? The simple answer to this question is -to lure the mobile-savvy generation. A coffee shop offering free WiFi to its customers is no doubt more enticing than the one without. Business owners do not have to spend much or put in enough efforts to provide internet access in their outlets. They only require wireless routers that can cover wide areas. Users so often expose valuable data over free WiFi hotspots; the network has become an attractive target for hackers.
How can hackers access your personal information?
Cybercrime experts say hackers use a number of options to gain your personal information. The network is so easy to attack since it is public and anyone can join it. You may feel safe if the network demands a password login. Do not be so assured. If the password is printed in the restaurant menu card or is there in your coffee shop bill, it is likely everybody knows the password like you. Therefore, your information security is at stake. Although, there is no fine print in any of the public hotspots, you need to use the free WiFi at your own risk.
[Read also: Secure Connection While Using WiFi – Is It Possible?]
Will you stop using public hotspot?
The idea that somebody is looking at your most personal information is no doubt dreading. However, there are ways to keep your data safe from the attacks of hackers even when you are in a public WiFi hotspot. First of all it is better not to assume that every free WiFi network is secure. How to know whether a public WiFi is secure? Without probing into that details, try to adopt safety measures as far as you can. Here are some tips that may help you to protect your data in a public WiFi network:
Tips to browse internet safely on public WiFi
- When there is a public hotspot at a place, carefully check the options that you will receive to connect with the free WiFi. You will likely have a number of options. The hackers have resorted to a practice of creating a false WiFi network with a name very similar to the hotspot that the business is offering. With that network you will have no problem in web browsing, but all you are doing on the internet will be routed to them. If the available WiFi options are confusing, confirm from the employee the full network name of that outlet. Never try to connect with a WiFi that does not require a password. It is good if the network is protected with WPA2 password or has a web-based security.
- We often select the same password for our online accounts as it is easy to remember and commit the greatest blunder. It is a common practice to use name or birth date as password. A hacker is able to track the password once your virtual kingdom will be at stake. Therefore, try to use unique password that are easy to remember for each of your account. A combination of letters and numbers can help.
- Before entering the card details in an e-commerce website, look whether the unbroken key symbol or locked padlock is showing on the browser. Additionally look at the URL bar of your browser. The site address must begin with “https” instead of “http”. When the “s” is there you can be assured that encryption is active. So, even the information you send or received is seized, it is in unreadable format.
- If you like to make sure that all the internet browsing is encrypted; sign up for a virtual private network (VPN) service. VPN acts like a middleman between the WiFi network and your computer or device. Anybody trying to snoop on your web-traffic will see only distorted data passing from this secondary server onto your device.
- Run the latest updates for your web browsers and operating system, so that your defenses are active enough, to aware you of any possible threats.
Unless there is any pressing need, it is better not to transfer crucial information online when you are using public WiFi. The websites try their best to protect our privacy. A little carefulness from your part will save your data from the hands of hackers and let you enjoy the public WiFi.
[Image credit: Giancarlos Martins, Flickr]