Do you feel as though your favorite mobile device has become an appendage of your body, leaving you uncomfortable without it? Are you constantly checking in with your online social network for the latest updates? If so, then you have undoubtedly gone to the corner coffee shop and used their free Internet. You probably went about your business, as usual, checking your emails and maybe even indulging in some online shopping.
After taking into account the average consumer’s contestant Internet usage as well as the fact that people are persistently on-the-go, it is not surprising that Wi-Fi has gone from a luxury to a necessity. Whether you’re at the local coffee shop, a hotel or the airport, you expect to be able to stay connected. However, connecting on-the-go may come at a price.
A common type of attack involving public Wi-Fi is the “man-in-the-middle” attack. Here attackers create their own networks and pose as public Wi-Fi networks, intercepting all of the data flowing between unsuspecting users and the public network. Since all traffic is going through the fraudulent network device, it’s incredibly easy for the hackers to see everything, including data transmitted over encrypted HTTPS connections.
To stay safe when traveling or just down at the local coffee shop follow these tips.
1. Verify Your Access Point: Check with personnel at the hotel, airport or other current hot spot before you log into their network; have them confirm that you are actually connecting to their access point. Hackers can set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots in public places to access your information, e-mails and passwords without your knowledge. When you’re in a public place that offers Wi-Fi you may notice multiple networks available to join. Let’s say that you’re at Panera and see “Panera” and “Free_Panera” networks and automatically think, ‘I want the free Wi-Fi’. This network may be an ad hoc spot, a Wi-Fi hotspot set up in a public place used to steal transmitted data. If you are banking online or sending work e-mails from this fake hotspot, a hacker can see and steal your information.
2. Use Up-to-Date Security Software: Security software can detect malicious code, like a virus or a worm, and prevents it from harming your computer. Make sure you have the latest version of this software protecting your private information.
3. Keep Your Firewall Turned On: A firewall helps to protect your computer from hackers. While firewall software is prepackaged on some operating systems, it may need to be purchased separately for your computer.
4. Disable Automatic Connections: Before you leave your home or office, make sure your computer is not set to automatically connect to unknown networks. Otherwise, you could be connecting to a hacker’s network and not even know it!
5. Disable File Sharing: When you are not using a trusted network, make sure your computer’s file sharing function is not turned on. Better yet, turn your computer off when you are not using it. When your computer is off, hackers cannot connect to your computer.
6. Download With Caution: Even your up-to-date anti-virus software may not protect you from some of the things you may download from the Internet. So, never open an e-mail attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of forwarded attachments, even from people you do know.
7. Be Aware of People Around You: When you’re using Wi-Fi in a high-traffic environment, make sure to keep an eye open for any suspicious characters in the area. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not.
8. Avoid software updates while you’re traveling: If you absolutely must perform a software update, verify the update is legitimate by visiting the vendor’s website and social media platform.
9. Utilize two-factor authentication on services that support it: Two-factor authentication(2FA) requires you to log in with a username and password, as usual, but also requires that you enter a code sent to your mobile device. Two-factor authentication greatly reduces the likelihood of someone being able to impersonate you just by using your username and password. Many popular social media sites have enabled 2FA for users to use. Such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Also banking institutions have established 2FA on their sites.
10. Use Mobile Hotspot Instead: Instead of public Wi-Fi networks, you can use your mobile device as a mobile Internet hotspot. Most iPhone and Android devices have this feature built-in. Connecting your laptop to Wi-Fi through your phone or mobile device means you avoid the risks associated with public Wi-Fi. Using a mobile hotspot requires a password, so it’s impossible for anyone else to eavesdrop on your connection unless they have physical access to your phone or the password.