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Is Free Public Wi-Fi as Safe as You Think?

by Brian Cody

Everybody has done it. At least once, but probably a lot more. Maybe daily. Maybe even hourly. But just because everybody else is connecting to the Internet via free public Wi-Fi doesn’t mean you should, too.

Instead, you should listen to that little voice in your head that asks, “Is this safe?” every time you connect to a free public Wi-Fi network — because you know it really isn’t. You’re not alone. Open public Wi-Fi networks are everywhere: coffee shops, airports, restaurants, trains, shopping malls. Free Wi-Fi is commonplace. And so are people’s concerns about their safety on unsecured open Wi-Fi hotspots, but like you they go ahead and connect anyway.

Here’s why you should stop using public Wi-Fi unless you also use a VPN, like Norton Secure VPN, which secures your private information on public Wi-Fi with encryption.

Using Wi-Fi on the Daily?

Think about how often you’re online. For some of us, it’s always. And consider how much of that online time involves being on an unsecured Wi-Fi network because you’re out and about — and it’s available and you won’t max out your data plan.

Now think about what you do while you’re using public Wi-Fi hotspots — and compare yourself to what other people do on public Wi-Fi:

• 21% of people have accessed bank/financial information.

• 53% of consumers have logged into their social media accounts. 

• 31% have shared photos or videos.

• 57% of people have logged into a personal email account.

Source: Norton Secure VPN Report (2016)

All of these online daily habits, when conducted on free public Wi-Fi or any unsecured Wi-Fi network, put your very private information at risk. All information on unsecured public Wi-Fi is easily viewed by others using the same network if they know the simple tricks that cybercriminals use to eavesdrop on whatever you do online.

Eavesdropping on Public Wi-Fi

The most common threat to your personal information is when hackers use a Man-in-the-Middle (MiTM) attack to eavesdrop on your data as it travels from point A (your device) to point B (a website).

A MiTM attack is made possible when a hacker has access to an unsecured or poorly secured Wi-Fi router. The vulnerable Wi-Fi could be out in public or in someone’s home, as long as the hacker is within range of the Wi-Fi. The attacker uses special tools to scan the router looking for vulnerabilities such as default or weak passwords, or even security holes due to the router being set up without basic security. When the hacker finds a vulnerability, he then uses widely available tools to get in between points A and B to intercept any information — such as your bank account credentials, credit card numbers, or social media logins — that passes between the two.

Know Your Virtual Private Networks

The only guaranteed ways to avoid becoming a victim of a MiTM attack are to stay off free public Wi-Fi completely or to use a VPN. These virtual networks encrypt, or make private, the information that passes into or out of your device while you’re using Wi-Fi.

VPNs may seem like the perfect solution to avoid the danger of having your credentials stolen on Wi-Fi. And they can be, but only if you know that they exist.

According to the 2016 Norton Secure VPN Report, only 16% of people in the U.K. use a VPN when they connect to public Wi-Fi. Yet the fact that more than 83% believe they are likely to have their information stolen after entering information on public Wi-Fi begs the question of why more people don’t use VPNs routinely? Lack of awareness could be a key factor. If cost is also an issue, people will need to weigh the risk of having their identity stolen against their desire to protect their private information on public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Norton Secure VPN for Multiple Devices, Macs and PCs

In 2016 the Norton Secure VPN VPN app launched on Google Play and Apple App Store, providing protection for smartphone and tablet users on public Wi-Fi. The new version of Norton Secure VPN now provides the same security for PC and Mac computer users, by encrypting all of the information that you send and receive when you connect to the Internet on public Wi-Fi. Learn more about how Norton Secure VPN can protect multiple devices on unsecured Wi-Fi — and silence that little voice in your head that asks, “Is this public Wi-Fi safe?” 

How do you avoid the dangers of free public Wi-Fi? Find out more

This entry was posted on Fri May 12, 2017 filed under online safety , online security and online threats

The personal information you think is private may not be

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