Public WiFi networks are popular among tourists, business travelers, and pretty much anyone working out of a café. However, using a public internet connection can make you a potential victim of WiFi hacking.
In this article, we will look at the best ways to protect yourself in a public network.
What is WiFi Hacking?
Wifi hackers scan IP addresses in a network and choose addresses to attack. Their attacks can take different forms, including a type where the hacker intercepts information traveling from one point to another on the same network.
Wifi hacking can also result in the installation of malware on your device. Hackers may exploit loopholes in networks to upload malware, which can affect all devices connected to it.
Here is how you can protect yourself:
Use HTTPS Sites Only
WiFi hackers attempt to collect data through the connections between sites you visit and the network. It is more straightforward for them to achieve this on HTTP networks because they are less secure.
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To protect yourself from such exploits, you must use only sites secured with HTTPS connections. Most browsers, including Firefox and Chrome, tag sites that use unencrypted HTTP connections as “Not Secure.”
Only Connect to Encrypted Networks
Unencrypted WiFi networks are more likely to suffer attacks compared to their encrypted counterparts. In most cases, if a network requires a password for you to log in, it is encrypted.
You should also check the kind of encryption used by the network by checking its configuration. WPA2 is secure and trusted by industry standards. WPA or WEP encrypted networks are often not reliable.
Change File Sharing Settings
It’s easier to have open sharing settings at home to allow seamless movement of data between your various devices. In cases where you connect to public WiFi networks, it can be very harmful to your device. Other users connected to the same network can gain access to your device through your open settings.
To avoid this, you must ensure that you have changed your filesharing settings to limit access to other people on the same network.
If you use a Windows device, open your “Control Panel,” then navigate to “Network and Internet.” After, browse to “Network and Sharing Center,” then click “Change Advanced Sharing Settings.”
Now you also have to disable printer and file sharing. What’s more, turn off network discovery and Public folder sharing.
For Mac users, go to System Preferences, then Sharing, and unselect everything. Further, you should also turn off network discovery, which prevents others connected to the network from seeing you.
You also have to tweak your Airdrop settings. Open Finder, click on Airdrop and pick Allow me to be discovered by No One. You can do the same on iOS by switching off Airdrop at Control Center.
After these steps, no one will be able to send you malicious files or steal files from your device.
Read the Terms & Conditions
Several public WiFi networks come with terms and conditions. You must check these terms to ensure that there are no loopholes that could be utilized by WiFi hackers.
Most terms and conditions are attached to protect the WiFi provider and usually have no malicious intent. Nevertheless, you should still look through it to be very sure.
Enabling your firewall will prevent unapproved external access to your machine. Also, the firewall protects you from some types of data-based malware.
Even though activating a firewall may be annoying, it is crucial if you choose to use a public network. To make sure you are fully secured, you should also consider a powerful antimalware/antivirus application to run alongside a firewall.
Avoid Revealing Sensitive Data
If you connect to an open WiFi network, you must avoid disclosing delicate data to stay safe.
For instance, if the sign-in page for the system asks for a lot of sensitive data, you shouldn’t sign in at all.
Personal data, like full name, home or work address, mobile number, and email address, are not necessary for signing up for a public WiFi network. If you have to use such networks, it is best practice that you don’t enter your primary number and email.
A WiFi hacker could sell the collected data on networks like these on the dark web.
What’s more, you should refrain from accessing sites that contain sensitive information when connected to a public WiFi network. Avoid visiting sites like cryptocurrency exchanges, online payment platforms, and bank accounts. You should also avoid logging into social media or email accounts.
Accessing any online portal that may leak your personal information could be harmful to you, especially if you are not using a VPN.
Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Installing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the most secure ways to use a public WiFi network. VPNs encrypt data moving to and from your device. The VPN connects you to a secure server, making it difficult for other users on the system to track you and steal your data.
In short, if WiFi hackers attempt to see what you are doing on the web by analyzing your data history, they will see nothing because of your VPN connection.
A VPN will keep you safe even if the entire public network gets hacked. If you intend to use open WiFi networks often, you should consider investing in VPN services.
The ultimate way to stay safe from public WiFi network hacks is to abstain from using them when possible. You should invest in big or unlimited data plans so that you can use your mobile hotspot instead.
If you still have to sign up, do that with a few networks as possible. The more networks you sign up to, the higher the chance of your device getting compromised.