Imagine catching up on the long-pending tasks of the month with a vanilla latte in your favorite coffee shop. What an amazing feeling of ease? Right? But you may not realize the presence of a scoundrel on that public Wi-Fi with their jaws open to snap at any given opportunity of lurking around you while you balance your account. We all have been warned of the threats on public Wi-Fi as we use it for sensitive purposes. Nevertheless, what exactly are those risks, one should be mindful of?
Risks of Public Wi-Fi:
Public Wi-Fi is a great convenience that keeps you connected to the online world at no monetary cost. It also enables you to do little tasks effectively like calling an Uber or sharing your location with some friends etc. However, utilizing the same to share sensitive information or to access your bank account online can prove to be quite perilous.
We all have a fair idea of what encryption means. It is nothing new and has rather been around for a long time now. Previously important messages were encrypted in such a way that only the receiver and sender could decrypt it. The same technique is being integrated into our new, technologically advanced systems whether it is a router or computer.
The information sent from your machine to the router is typically encoded so that no one can eavesdrop. Most of the routers are shipped with their encryption switched off. An ordinary technical assistant would have no idea about the encryption mode; however, an IT professional would. If an IT professional sets the network there are fair chances that they enable encryption mode. Otherwise, may God help you!
Now all the internet service providers themselves are stressing over the importance of security and are offering their own security suites to facilitate the customers. They also offer an end-to-end encryption feature in order to ensure security. I found out about the Internet service provider’s security features in the quest for an effective ISP. All the ISPs such as Spectrum internet itself are going the extra mile to deliver a secure and protected network environment to their clients by offering their secure public Wi-Fi hotspots.
MitM (Man-in-the-Middle) Attacks
The most common threat discovered on the public hotspots is of Man-in-the-Middle attacks. If I define man-in-the-middle in layman language, I would say it is technical eavesdropping to gain a peek into someone’s data or online conversations. When a computer or mobile phone makes a connection with public Wi-Fi and transfers data from one end to another, the vulnerabilities of public Wi-Fi are exploited to sneak into the transmission. Therefore, what we consider private may not remain as private or confidential on public Wi-Fi.
Malware and virus distribution
A software vulnerability is basically a security loophole or fault spotted in the operating system or software program. Many hackers exploit the software vulnerabilities to slip malware into your machines without you recognizing it. Hackers can optimize on such opportunities by targeting the connected machines via some piece of code to inject the malware on to these devices.
Many hackers and cybercriminals utilize the potential of malicious hotspots for the Man-in-the-middle attack. This “internet access point” trick people into connecting to a network that the user considers legitimate but is actually a malicious one.
A quick example of it. You are staying at a hotel with their Wi-Fi by the name: “Hotel Days Inn”, the cybercriminals might set up a malicious hotspot by utilizing the name of the hotel, let us say “Hotel Days Inn Wi-Fi”. One can easily take it for the hotel’s Wi-Fi and unknowingly connect with the malicious hotspot. The information on your connected machines will be compromised at the very spot. The hackers will be able to view all the sensitive information available on your system through it. So, know exactly which Wi-Fi is provided by the facility before making any connection.