Free public access comes with serious security risks
In today’s hectic world, convenience seems to outweigh consequence, especially with regards to mobile devices. Using free public Wi-Fi comes with serious security risks, yet surveys indicate the overwhelming majority of people do it anyway.
Possible consequences include theft of personal data such as passwords, financial information, or private pictures or videos. Each year, over half of adults in the U.S. have their personal information exposed to hackers. Verizon’s annual Data Breach Investigation Report revealed 89% of all cyber-attacks involved financial or espionage motives.
So, what to do? Although antivirus and firewalls are essential, they are useless against hackers on unsecured Wi-Fi networks. Consider the following security tips:
• Don’t use public Wi-Fi to shop online, log in to your financial institutions
• Use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, to create a network-within-a-network, keeping everything you do encrypted
• Implement two-factor authentication when logging into sensitive sites, so even if hackers obtain the passwords to your bank, social media, or email, they won’t be able to log in
• Only visit websites with HTTPS encryption, as opposed to lesser-protected HTTP addresses
• Turn off the automatic Wi-Fi connectivity feature on your phone, so it won’t automatically seek out hotspots
• Monitor Bluetooth connections in public places to ensure others are not intercepting data transfers
• Buy an unlimited data plan for your device and stop using public Wi-Fi altogether
The better you protect yourself, the greater your chances of minimizing the potential damage. It’s only a question of when, not if.