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The Dangers of using Free Public WiFi

Updated: Jul 5, 2019

As we are approach summer 2019… we will no doubt be planning holidays - travelling through busy airports and train terminals… When we arrive at our destinations, we will also be inundated with the prospects of free public Wi-Fi because we are not using our 4G contracts in non EU countries.

With all the distractions we could be tricked into using rogue Wi-Fi networks set up by an attacker. That network enticingly called "Free Wi-Fi" may be set up precisely to steal our valuable data.

With coffee shops, hotels, shopping malls, airports and many other locations offering their customers free access to public Wi-Fi, it’s a convenient way to check our emails, catch up on social networking or surf the web when we’re out and about.

Cybercriminals will often spy on public Wi-Fi networks to intercept data that is transferred across the link. In this way, they can access users’ banking credentials, account passwords and other valuable information.

Connecting to free, public Wi-Fi brings risks from having our data intercepted by these rogues. This is because hackers have the ability to position themselves between you who are using the Wi-Fi and the connection point making it possible for them to access everything you are doing online, potentially enabling them to capture your login credentials and even hijack your accounts.

When connected to a public Wi-Fi, we run the risk of a worm travelling from another device that's connected to the network to our computer or device.

Using unsecured public Wi-Fi can allow others to see our important emails, encrypted messages and unsecured logins.

Here are some useful tips from Kaspersky Lab’s team of Internet security experts:

1. Be aware that any device could be at risk… Laptops, smartphones and tablets are all susceptible to the wireless security risks.

2. Don’t just assume that the Wi-Fi link is legitimate. It could be a bogus link that has been set up by a cybercriminal that’s trying to capture valuable, personal information from unsuspecting users. Question everything — and don’t connect to an unknown or unrecognised wireless access point.

3. Try to verify that the free public Wi-Fi you are connected to is a legitimate wireless connection - Some bogus links that have been set up by malicious users — will have a connection name that’s deliberately similar to the coffee shop, hotel or venue that’s offering free Wi-Fi. If you can speak with an employee at the location that’s providing the public Wi-Fi connection, ask for information about their legitimate Wi-Fi access point.

4. If you must - Avoid using specific types of website while logged onto a free public wifi - It’s a good idea to avoid logging into websites where there’s a chance that cybercriminals could capture your identity, passwords or personal information — such as social networking sites, online banking services or any websites that store your credit card information.

5. If you can - Consider using your mobile phone - If you need to access any websites that store or require the input of any sensitive information - including social networking, online shopping and online banking sites — it may be worthwhile accessing them via your mobile phone network, instead of the public Wi-Fi connection.

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