The Risks of Public WiFi & How to Secure Yourself

The Risks of Public WiFi & How to Secure Yourself

The internet has become a part of our lives. However, wireless connections are easy to target and intercept. The risks of public WiFi are one of the reasons why you must take online security very seriously and be able to access the web without worrying about your privacy or confidential information being compromised.

Public WiFi is risky because anyone, including threat actors, can access it. Here are some risks of using public WiFi:

Risks of using Public WiFi

Using open or public wireless is a risk as it leaves users vulnerable. Most businesses, public transportation, or libraries may think they offer a helpful service to users using the connection. Still, not all of them take security as seriously as you do. People are always eager to use any free wireless network they can connect to without considering the dangers that come with it. You may not know who else is on the network and what they are up to.

Main in the middle attack (MITM): This is a typical public WiFi cyberattack that intercepts a user’s data as it moves over the network, exploiting security vulnerabilities to place malware on the user’s device or creating malicious hotspots that is full of malware to look like legitimate public networks from the outside.

MITM is described as how an attacker intercepts a connection between two systems, i.e., the access point and the victims. An attacker sets up a fake access point (free WiFi) in a public space, and you quickly connect to it. The attacker has his motive for creating this: to spoof your browsing history, including your usernames and passwords.

DSN Cache Poisoning: This is another method similar to SSL stripping. For example, if you want to browse Instagram, your computer sends a request to the wireless router to access Instagram, and the router sends back the response to your computer with Instagram.

But with DNS cache poisoning, also known as ‘DNS spoofing’, the attacker is the one impersonating and in between the connection, i.e., the wireless connection, and your computer. Instagram, instead of your computer communicating with the complimentary wireless connection directly, will pass through the attacker’s computer, then to the access point, get a response from the wireless connection back to the attacker’s computer, and then back to you.

With this, he can modify his computer so that whenever you browse Instagram or Gmail, it may appear to you as Instagram, but looking closely, it’s just a phishing site.

Read More: Everything you need to know about Web Server and How it Works.

Hackers intercept wireless network connections through an attack called SSL Stripping: When you connect to public wireless from a restaurant, airport, or a public space and you are browsing through Instagram, X, or Gmail, since these sites are both encrypted with HTTPS, the assumption is that they are secure and no one can intercept your communication on a secure site. The hackers take advantage and attack the wireless network using SSL stripping.

Malware and Malicious Hotspots: Hackers use this common technique, which involves setting up fake hotspot networks full of malware and making them look like legitimate networks—an attack sometimes referred to as a honeypot. Hackers usually use reputable WiFi names to trick victims into connecting.

How to Secure Yourself

After going through all the risks associated with public WiFi, users must avoid falling victim to these attacks.

  • If you plan to use public WiFi, ensure your website is accurate. Browse only on websites with HTTPS.
  • Do not conduct transactions with your bank online, as that is one of the main reasons an attacker intercepts your connection. If you plan to do that, get yourself a private connection.
  • If you urgently need to log in to your bank account or conduct a transaction, it is advisable to opt for a data connection using your phone or use your cellular connection as a personal hotspot for your laptop.
  • If you need to use public WiFi, limit your activities. Do not visit sites or use mobile apps that require your personal information, such as bank details, usernames, email addresses, phone numbers, passwords, or medical information.
  • Remember to turn off your wireless or Bluetooth connection when not in use.
  • Make sure your software is updated. Software updates are critical to security but typically contain essential security patches.
  • Install anti-virus software.
  • If you must use a public WiFi network, turn off any file-sharing features, such as Airdrop, on your device
  • Read the terms and conditions before you connect your device to any public WiFi network; make sure you know what you are signing up for
  • To protect yourself against any online attack, use a VPN to ensure your online activities are safe, secure, and encrypted. Many different types of VPNs are available, such as OpenVPN, VPNgate, VyprVPN, etc.

Using a Free VPN to Secure your WIFI connection

In this post, we will take a quick look at VPN Gate. Generally, VPNs allow you to connect your device to remote networks through the internet, grant secure connections to multiple networks, and help boost your online security and privacy.

VPN gGate is a free, non-commercial “Academic Experiment Project” developed by the University of Tsukuba. The VPN Gate network consists of VPN relay servers located worldwide.

How to Setup VPN Gate

  • Visit here to download
  • After downloading, install the VPN GATE client
  • Open the VPNGATE client
  • Choose the server you want to connect to
  • Once connected, your connection becomes secure, and you can browse the internet safely.

In conclusion, the best way to stay safe on a public WiFi network is not to use the public WiFi network. You should get an unlimited cell phone data plan if you browse frequently and use the internet.