Free Wi-Fi: To Connect or Not – The Question of Our Age
Free Wi-Fi has been under the safety spotlight for many years. While many online security analysts believe that technology has advanced to the point where the threats of connecting to free Wi-Fi are no longer there, others have stated that even though improvements have been made, there are still certain risks.
We’ll be taking a closer look at free Wi-Fi and the risks that these networks still present to users who are unaware. We’ll also look at some precautions users can take when connecting to these public networks to avoid becoming victims; some include using proxies from a reliable proxy service, strong passwords, multi-factor authentication, and more.
Free Wi-Fi is Everywhere
Free Wi-Fi is becoming more common, with coffee shops, cafes, and even local municipalities creating free Wi-Fi hotspots for users to connect to. Many businesses and individuals find it useful to have the option of free Wi-Fi in cases where they need an internet connection.
Whether you use free Wi-Fi to send an urgent work report, download videos to watch at home, or just pass the time while waiting at the airport, it can offer a simple way to access the internet freely. However, many users have started to wonder if it’s really free. As the saying goes, ‘nothing in life is free, so what are you paying if it’s not money?
Public Wi-Fi can be very convenient for users or those without internet access. There can also be certain security risks associated with using these networks. You should carefully consider if the price of your personal information is worth the convenience of free internet access.
The Risk of Using Free Wi-Fi
While stronger encryption methods and stricter security protocols have already had a big effect on the safety of public Wi-Fi, there are still risks involved with using these networks. Some of the risks of public networks include the following:
Man-in-the-Middle or MITM attacks occur when an individual places himself in the middle of a conversation between a user and an application. These often occur on public networks, as users are already connected to the same network, making it easier for perpetrators to position themselves between users and applications. The main goal of these applications is to eavesdrop and collect personal information such as login credentials, banking information, and more. MITM attacks are the online equivalent of your postman opening confidential mail, like bank statements, and copying the information before sealing the envelope and delivering it.
Most free or public hotspots require a login to access the network. However, many users don’t even realize what this means regarding their privacy. By logging in to free Wi-Fi, your data can be collected, and your location can be tracked. This frequently happens in chain cafes, airports, and even public transport like London’s Tube Network. In the case of the London Tube Network, like many others, they state that they use the data to improve their services and give users the most up-to-date notifications of delays, etc.
Many of these networks track your location, with the primary purpose to make it more convenient for you to connect to free Wi-Fi. However, what else happens to this data? Your life becomes an open book with trackers knowing where you go and how much time you spend in specific locations. How do you know this information is safe?
How to Protect Yourself When Using Free Wi-Fi?
There are many ways to protect yourself if you have to use free Wi-Fi.
A reliable proxy service is one of the most efficient ways to protect your network and connection. A proxy service can provide you with various proxies depending on your needs. These then act as an intermediary server (or middleman) between the user and the internet. At the same time, they provide the user with a different IP address, making it difficult for the user to be tracked.
Strong and unique passwords are so important for protecting your information online. Make sure you use complex passwords consisting of letters, numbers, and symbols. Also, don’t use the same password across multiple accounts, and update them frequently.
Don’t Log Into Secure Accounts
This one is crucial, especially to avoid MITM attacks – don’t log into secure accounts while on a public network. Avoid logging into accounts like banking apps, investment apps, or anything else that can give perpetrators access to your personal details.
Enable Multi-Factor Authentication
It’s highly recommended that you use multi-factor authentication wherever possible. By enabling these security measures, you’ll immediately be aware if someone’s trying to access your account without your knowledge.
Remove Old Information
It’s also recommended to remove old information from your device. Do you really need a copy of your tax returns from three years ago on your phone? No, but this can be a great source of information for hackers. As such, these documents are better stored on secure devices not connected to public networks.
Free Wi-Fi is all around us, and while this may seem convenient, it’s essential that users are also aware of the risks. Only by knowing the risks can you implement the necessary security measures to protect yourself when using these networks.