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The Risks of Using Public Wi-Fi

By:Christine Fettinger

The phrase free Wi-Fi can often generate excitement. Who wants to arrive at their destination without Wi-Fi? Before connecting to that “free” Wi-Fithink about the consequences.

You create risk by joining public Wi-Fi as hackers can easily compromise the connection. They can probe, infect your device with a virus, and even spy on your browsing habits.

Hackers will then execute a method called packet sniffinga term used to intercept packets through a network then analyzing data within them. The possibility of a hacker intercepting these packets through an unprotected Wi-Fi connection is extremely high. Often these packets reveal usernames, passwords, social media posts, and other messaging information.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Verify legitimate wireless connections
    • Try to resist joining any free Wi-Fi connection. A step towards identifying legitimate connections is typically the name of the location that offers this free Wi-Fi. Some may even spoof their Wi-Fi names, if one were technically inclined they could even ask for an IP Address for verification.
  • Implement a VPN (Virtual Private Network)
    • Using a VPN essentially creates a private tunnel that encrypts data that passes through a network. This method is widely popular amongst businesses who value their company data. This can help prevent criminals from intercepting your data.
  • Avoid using websites that require logins
    • Logging into websites that require username and login credentials will drastically jeopardize your personal information. Sites include social networking sites, online banking, and any site that stores credit card information.
  • Access websites via cell phone network
    • Even though data plans are expensive it is recommended to input sensitive information via cellular network.
  • Protect your device with anti-malware
    • We recommend anti-malware and anti-virus to be installed on every mobile device.
  • Avoid sharing online
    • Sharing files by default is not uncommon for modern operating systems. On Windows make sure you set your Wi-Fi connection to public. It will automatically modify and limit access to shared folders.

Another reason customers typically choose Wi-Fi over cellular is mostly due to the outrageous monthly data usage plans. The term 3G/4G should ring bell, if not check out our glossary for more information. Businesses such as hotels, cafes, and restaurants strongly agree that Wi-Fi is an amenity.

Often customers will travel elsewhere for free public Wi-Fi. They start to cringe and desperately search for a connection. As a matter of fact psychologists even created a term called “nomophobia” (no mobile phone phobia)!

The problem with Wi-Fi is limited availability. The risks associated with Wi-Fi are even greater as we definitely cannot live without Wi-Fi. It is from experience that business owners can benefit from no-cost review and consultation on wireless networking technologies. Are you running a coffee shop or hotel offering free Wi-Fi? Call CyberStreams at (425) 274-1121 option 6.