August 13, 2022
The Dangers of Free, Public Wi-Fi – and How to Keep Yourself Safe

Imagine this scenario: You have just moved to a new city. What would you think of doing first? Head for the luggage belt? go to the washroom? No – this will usually be scanned for free Wi-Fi networks at the airport. It is an automatic response that has evolved since the boom of the smartphone.

It’s not just airports, as of today, you can find free Wi-Fi everywhere – in malls, coffee shops, public transportation, restaurants and in 2016, we’re going to see this increase tenfold with a big conglomerate like Google. are. At the same time, the government is taking steps to make public Wi-Fi ubiquitous in India. It’s a great idea, and one that has been widely praised.

However, a disadvantage of public Wi-Fi is that it is easily open to hackers attacks. According to Norton’s Cyber ​​Security Insights ReportMillennials appear to be most vulnerable to attacks because most of their work, business and socializing is done online. The report also found that 77 percent of Indians would be devastated if their personal financial information was compromised and that about 52 percent have experienced credit card fraud, or know someone who has.

Jagdish Mohapatra, managing director of Intel Security, India and SAARC, told Gadgets 360 that the firm’s recent study for India highlighted that promotional links related to diet or fitness are something that cybercriminals regularly run into. He also says that 78 percent of Indian consumers consider the dangers of unsafe online search terms but click on the hype diet. [weight loss] Links. That said, 44 percent of survey respondents have purchased a service or product from a promotional link without knowing whether or not it is a secure site. Many respondents reported willingness to share information such as email address (79 percent), full name (72 percent) or age (53 percent) with a website, service or company in hopes of reaching their goal weight or dream body. .

How can a hacker get your data?
The biggest problem with public networks is the lack of authentication. To join a free network, you usually need to tap on the desired icon, enter some credentials like your mobile number in the browser window (if at all) and you are good to go.

No password is required to join as you would normally have at home or on a private network. This means anyone can connect to the network and start tapping your information very easily. In fact, FireEye’s Strategic Business Manager Mandar Bell told Gadgets 360 that even browser plugins like FireShip have demonstrated how easily Web sessions can be hijacked to steal credentials.

The most common type of attack, he explains, is known as a man-in-the-middle attack. Here, the hacker is able to exploit a security flaw in the network to establish himself between you and the access point. Bell says devices like Wi-Fi Pineapple Make it very easy to carry out such attacks. This way, all the information that passes between you and the Internet is the first to be intercepted by the hacker.


By sniffing the data, the hacker can potentially recover your financial data, passwords, account logins and other sensitive data that you may have. It can also lead to identity theft if you are not careful.

Sidejacking is a form of hacking where an active web session is compromised by obfuscating the user’s credentials, says Altaf Hald, Managing Director South Asia, Kaspersky Lab. This method mostly works on sites that require username and password such as mail accounts, social networking sites, to name a few.

Rogue networks are another threat to watch out for. In public places, you will often see many unsecured networks, some of which may look similar with slight variations in name. While one of them would be legitimate, the other could be a rogue access point set up by a hacker to lure an unsuspecting user. These hotspots will typically have names like “free Wi-Fi” or mimic the name of a popular coffee shop or restaurant, fooling unsuspecting users.

Hackers also commonly use unsecured connections to spread malware. On a computer with file sharing enabled, this can be easily achieved if you connect to a fake network. According to Kaspersky Of course, hackers have even managed to hack the connection point itself, causing a pop-up window to appear during the connection process offering an upgrade to a piece of popular software. Clicking on the window installs the malware.

With so many risks, it is no surprise that Sunil Sharma, VP Sales, Sophos India and SAARC, describes joining public Wi-Fi networks as “stepping into a black hole”. And as he points out, even if you’re not a senior corporate executive, that doesn’t mean your data is useless – even a student needs to be alert and aware.

How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi?
Despite the impending dangers, don’t let it take you away from public Wi-Fi. Huld suggested, “It’s a good idea to avoid logging into websites where cybercriminals can access your identity, password, or personal information — such as social networking sites, online banking services, or any website that stores your credit card information.” can capture.”

Rana Gupta, vice president (identity and data protection), APAC, Gemalto, suggests disabling file sharing on your laptop when connected to a public Wi-Fi hotspot. He adds, “While one can safely put the data in sharing mode when using a private network, one must disable the network sharing option on their smartphones and laptops on public Wi-Fi networks which can prevent hackers from accessing their devices.” will prevent access to the data.”

In Windows, you can find it below Network and Sharing Center In control Panel either system Preferences , sharing If you are using Mac. It is also recommended to turn on firewall for both OS. Another good practice would be to use the “Forget network” option for public Wi-Fi networks or remove it when you’re done using it, so that it doesn’t automatically connect to it the next time you’re in the area. Avoid.


It’s also important to patch your software to the latest versions, whether you’re on a laptop, smartphone or tablet. Hackers are constantly trying to find flaws and vulnerabilities in your device, causing manufacturers to release new firmware and updates to fix it. So, the next time you get notified of an update, don’t ignore it.

Sometimes, even seemingly secure apps have been known to leak information inadvertently. a recent investigation FireEye revealed a popular camera app called Camera360 Ultimate accidentally leaked sensitive data that could give malicious parties unauthorized access to users’ Camera360 cloud accounts and photos. This problem has been fixed in the latest version of the app. Therefore, it is best to limit your use of third-party apps, especially when on public networks.

Sophos Sharma also suggests that when you are travelling, invest in a local SIM so that you can use mobile data instead of relying solely on Wi-Fi. He also recommends that users encrypt their data. “Assuming you still go ahead and connect to an open Wi-Fi, look for a padlock symbol on your browser,” he says. “The lock symbol indicates that your connection to the website is encrypted, which is important for your security and privacy. If it is missing, exit immediately.”

Of course the simplest solution would be to just stick to your data plan, but if you absolutely must use a free Wi-Fi network; Then use a VPN or Virtual Private Network to get your work done. That way, even if a hacker manages to sniff your data, it will be heavily encrypted.

If you’re using Windows, the latest developer build of Opera offers a free built-in VPN service within the browser that requires no setup. Total VPN and CyberGhost and some other popular services that you can try as well. Enabling two-factor authentication is another way to protect your login details.

Of course, when it comes to protecting your privacy, there are no absolute guarantees, even with the precautions in place. This is one of the side effects of living in a highly interconnected world. Being alert when you are outside the confines of your home network and restricting the types of activities you conduct will go a long way in ensuring your safety on the web.

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