Why you need a VPN when accessing public Wi-Fi

Mill Brucon
May 16 · 4 min read

These days it is possible to find public wifi everywhere, in cafes, in airports, in libraries — everywhere. We all get excited when we find a public wifi hotspot, but there are threats lying behind it that you should know. Even logging to your Facebook account can cause you a threat for your identity to be stolen.

Why is public wifi insecure

If a Wi-Fi network doesn’t require you to enter a password to use the network then the network is unsecured. These kind of networks have un-encrypted connections leaving people connected to it at big risk. Public wi-fi are an easy target for hackers who are trying to steal your personal information like passwords to emails, bank accounts and anything that you access while connected to public wi-fi. Public wi-fi also can cause threats like man-in-the-middle attacks, wi-fi sniffing and malware.

Hackers

Hackers can easily access unsecured Wi-fi networks and access users personal details and logins. It’s getting easier everyday for Hackers to hack into your personal accounts through unsecured networks.

Malware

Malware can get injected into users computers through open Wi-Fi. Malware can give access to attackers to everything on your computer. This includes all of your files and even give access to microphone or camera.

Man-in-the-Middle

This cyber crime happens when a dangerous third person interrupts communication between two people. Then the criminal can access information that is being sent between people. This attacks allows eavesdropping, accessing real-time transactions, get data that is being transferred.

What data is at risk

Now when you understand that your personal information is an easy target for hackers when you are on a public wi-fi, you should also know what data is at risk, when you are located to it.

When you are connected to an open network this information can be at risk:

  • Websites you visit
  • Current location
  • Emails and messages
  • Friends you are talking to online
  • Files you shared (photos, documents and etc.)
  • Your passwords to the accounts you log into
  • Login credentials to all websites you visit, like bank websites

Few Wi-Fi hacking cases to illustrate the threat:

  • In 2016 Israel hacker took over a public wi-fi of the entire city. He found a vulnerability that let him take full control of the wi-fi device. This shows that skilled hackers can attack thousands of people by accessing large public wi-fi networks.
  • Technologist writer Steven Petrow was once working on an article about dispute between FBI and Apple. Petrow was using fee-based public airplane wi-fi. After the flight landed the writer was approached by a man who said that he hacked into his files while he was on the plane. The reason that the man hacked into his account was that he wanted to show the feeling that people have when their computer is hacked and someone access their personal information.
  • Business executives that visited luxury hotels in Asia have been infected by malware while connected to the hotel public Wi-fi and hackers could access their information.

How to protect yourself on public Wi-Fi

All of this might get scary, especially for those who have never thought that such thing as public Wi-Fi might be unsecured and cause such threats. Don’t worry, you do not have to avoid public wi-fi, there are things you can do to make yourself secure.

Most effective one is getting yourself a VPN. Virtual Private Network encrypts your internet connection to make it secure and anonymous. While connected to a VPN no one, not even the ISP, not even the network owner or any hacker can see your traffic and access your information. Surfshark is a good option for a VPN to secure your information while connected to public Wi-Fi. Surfshark doesn’t collect logs, uses industry leading encryption and has fast servers worldwide. They also offer a neat deal right now, with which you can get 83%discount. You can get the deal here.

Some more things you can do:

  • Turn off sharing settings
  • Use firewall
  • Use HTTPS for websites
  • Use 2-factor authentication for all accounts
  • Turn off Wi-Fi when you are not using it
  • Forget networks after using them
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