Here’s Why Hackers Love Public Wi-Fi

by CXOtoday News Desk    Jun 20, 2016

Free WiFi Nowadays, free public Wi-Fi’s are widely and readily available in larger cities—airports, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, public transport, hotel rooms, you name it. Of course, we all know jumping on a free Internet connection can be a convenient way to access online accounts, catch up on work, and check emails while on the go. However, the security risks should not be ignored since you could be making yourself an easy target for hackers while putting your information and more at risk.

Today, on the occasion of World Wi-Fi Day, Norton by Symantec highlights potential security risks with public W-Fi and also shares tips to stay protected. 

Online Crime Takes Many Forms

The Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report revealed that 77 percent of Indians would feel devastated if their personal financial information were compromised and 52 percent actually have either personally experienced a credit card fraud or know someone who has. With public Wi-Fi available everywhere, what seems like a convenience can actually put you at a great risk. Free public Wi-Fi is a hacker’s playground for stealing personal information. To avoid becoming one of millions of victims of cybercrime, here’s what you need to know about the risks of public Wi-Fi and how to stay safe online.

Man-in-the-Middle Attack 

One of the many dangers of using a public Wi-Fi network is that data over this type of open connection is often unencrypted and unsecured, leaving you vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. What is an MITM? It’s when a cybercriminal exploits a security flaw in the network to intercept data. Essentially, this gives a hacker access to sniff out any information that passes between you and the websites you visit — details of browsing activities, account logins, and purchase transactions. Your sensitive information, such as passwords and financial data, are then vulnerable to identity theft.

Rogue Hotspots

Another risk of using free public Wi-Fi is that you may be connecting via a rogue hotspot. This is an open hotspot, usually with a name similar to that of a legitimate hotspot, which cybercriminals set up to lure people into connecting to their network. Once a victim connects to the rogue Wi-Fi hotspot, the host hacker can then intercept data and even use tools to inject malware into the connected devices.  

Better Wi-Fi Security Habits to Stay Safe from Cybercrime 

Did you know that 66 percent of consumers in India think using public Wi-Fi is riskier than using a public restroom? Yet, while the Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report revealed that people are aware of the risks of public Wi-Fi, the survey also showed that people are not practicing safe security habits online.

Here are a few tips from Norton to help you make it harder for cybercriminals to steal your information on public Wi-Fi:

# Avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi. If you must use a public Wi-Fi hotspot, also use a virtual private network (VPN) to secure your connection. 

# Don’t log in to password-protected websites that contain sensitive information when using a public Wi-Fi connection — for example, banking and social networking sites, or even email.

# Keep your software patched and up to date on all your devices — even your mobile ones — to avoid any potential infections by viruses or malware if you do use unsecured public Wi-Fi.

# One More Security Habit: Use a Virtual Private Network

A VPN creates a “secure tunnel” where data sent over a Wi-Fi connection is encrypted, making all that data sent to and from your device secure. Using a VPN is a better Wi-Fi security habit that can protect you when connecting to the Internet on the go.