Ever wondered what you’re actually putting at risk by connecting to “Free Public Wi-Fi”? From compromised Wi-Fi hotspots to snooping, infecting your computer with malicious software and even identify theft! The list just goes on and on.
Here are 5 wifi facts you probably didn’t know related to the security and dangers when connected to a free public wifi network.
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Number 5 - Fake Wi-Fi Networks Do Exist
Cyber criminals can easily create fake Wi-Fi hotspots and set them up in public places. You might have noticed multiple networks having the same name. For example, ABC Wi-Fi and Free ABC Wi-Fi (see image below).
Whatever you access while connected to such hotspots can be tracked down, including your emails, chat conversations and even passwords. Smartphones are particularly vulnerable to such attacks since most people have enabled the automatic connection option which will connect the device to any Wi-Fi network that’s in range. The device may get connected to such fake Wi-Fi networks and all your data might get stolen without you even knowing it.
Number 4 - 1 billion login credentials are stolen daily
Team Cymru, an internet security firm based in Florida released a report that almost 1 terabyte of data is stolen per day through hacking alone. The report identified that the only way any action can be taken against such an issue is if there was a cyber-catastrophe. The major reason for such huge numbers is lack of awareness about public wifi security. 1 terabyte of data can accommodate up to 1 billion people having their data stolen, including bank details and email login credentials.
Number 3 - More than 95% of people in the United States alone put their company data at risk by using Free Public Wi-Fi
In a survey conducted of 1000 office workers in the United States, more than 95% acknowledged using public Wi-Fi to carry out work related tasks. More than 60% admitted using free Wi-Fi sources whenever available and surprisingly more than 25% were aware and concerned about their data being intercepted but still used public Wi-Fi networks anyway. This puts sensitive company data at risk because of packet sniffing and man in the middle attacks.
Number 2 - Packet Sniffing softwares are easily available for free online enabling anyone to access your data via Public Wi-Fi
Packet sniffing is basically a utility that is used by network professionals to capture data being transmitted over a network. At the hands of an attacker, such utilities can be dangerous. Such packet sniffing softwares are widely available online for free and are also very easy to set up. To top things of, you can even find tons of resources on how to use such sniffing softwares. Furthermore, you have specific packet sniffers that target a certain niche, for example the SniffPass password sniffer which only captures passwords over the network. All these softwares are available in an easy to use interface, meaning anyone, literally anyone, can access your data over a compromised network. This completely changes ones perception about public wifi security.
Number 1 - The HTTPS Delusion
When a session is carried out completely over HTTPS, it might be safer but there are many websites that may only use the extra layer of security for their login and authentication steps. So for example, if you log in to any website, you may notice that it only opens up the http version of the site, without any layer of security. This is an open invitation to any cyber-criminal who might use that as an opportunity to access and modify your traffic. At this point, the cyber-criminal pretty much controls the flow of information. If you move in to login your account, the attacker might intercept and redirect you to the http version of the login page instead of the https version. With no security, all activity that you do now with that account can be accessed by the cyber-criminal
Public wifi security is a huge problem and the risks keep getting higher and higher since the numbers of Wi-Fi hotspots keep increasing. The best possible protection you can get is by connecting to a VPN before using a public Wi-Fi. VPN protects your data by encrypting all the traffic. Certain VPN networks might even prevent your computer from communicating with other computers on the network, making the connection more secure. Even with packet sniffing softwares, all the attacker would see is that you are connected to a VPN, not what you are accessing.