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Connected: Call to take extra caution when using public Wi-Fi

Use your mobile data rather than risking public Wi-Fi.

Smartphone charging. Image. — © Tim Sandle.
Smartphone charging. Image. — © Tim Sandle.

Free Wi-Fi is commonplace at the airport, train station, coffee shop, or hotel. However, it is important to realise that these connections are not always secure.

Vincent Iachetta Jr., president of Peppermonkey Media, tells Digital Journal why people should think twice before connecting to public Wi-Fi. This takes the form of a series of risk factors:

Man-In-The-Middle Attacks

Man-in-the-middle attacks are where hackers break into the public network and view your data as it passes from your connected device to the Wi-Fi router. Iachetta says: “If you’re doing online banking at the time, hackers can see your passwords and account information. They can steal your credit card number, email address, and other personal details.”

Evil Twin Attacks

When a person is looking for a public Wi-Fi hotspot, they may discover a lookalike to the correct one. It might be named something like, ‘Free University Wi-Fi1’ or ‘Station Wi-Fi234’. The risk here is by using this clone instead of the correct network, a person is connecting to the scammers, meaning they could expose your private data.

Malware-Infected Networks

According to Iachetta: “If hackers infect a network, they can send software bugs to any device connected to it. If you suddenly see a pop-up, don’t click on it because it could contain an infected link.”

Session Hijacking

If a cybercriminal gains access to a device while a person browsing online, they can copy any data.

Iachetta cautions: “Next, they’ll hijack your browsing session and masquerade as you. In turn, they can steal your money, personal details, or identity.”

How can you stay safe?

Iachetta has some tips for beating scammers on public networks. These are:

  • Always use A VPN (Virtual Private Network) when using public Wi-Fi. It’ll encrypt all your data so that it can’t be viewed by hackers.
  • Use a Password Manager so that cybercriminals can’t view your password.

Iachetta says: “You should also never conduct sensitive activities such as online banking when using free Wi-Fi. If you really have to look at your banking info, do it via an app using 4G.”

To remain completely secure, Iachetta’s most simple advice is: “Use your mobile data rather than risking public Wi-Fi. The inconvenience of using up your data is nothing to what you’ll face if your personal details are stolen by scammers.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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