Public WiFi is everywhere, from the airports to hotels, cafes, shopping centres, and libraries, and in theory, it’s a fantastic concept. Internet access has become essential in our daily lives, allowing us to shop, chat and work on the go – but it’s not without risks. In this age of flexible and remote working, it’s more important than ever to understand the dangers of public WiFi and take measures to protect yourself.

The Risks

  • WiFi is less safe than Ethernet – Ethernet is a wired connection to the internet, and it’s often used in workplaces because it is more secure than WiFi. That’s because you have to physically connect to the port rather than just being within range of the router, so if the port is in a secured office, it’s much harder for a malicious user to access than the WiFi at, say, a coffee shop because they can just sit in the same general area as you.
  • Unencrypted networks – Encryption transforms the data you send into a form of code so it cannot be read or accessed by anyone other than the person you are sending it to. It’s a common safety protocol for office WiFi networks, but it usually isn’t a feature in public ones. That means that your personal and work data is more vulnerable to hackers.
  • Malicious WiFi networks – When you are logging onto a public WiFi network, it’s difficult to know if it is legitimate or not. Most people don’t even check – they simply see that it’s open and connect because the name looks legitimate. The reality is that anyone can fake a legitimate-looking WiFi hotspot, and once you’re on a malicious network, cybercriminals can use this connection to access your sensitive information.
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks – These are one of the most common types of cyberattacks on public or other unsecured WiFi networks. When you send data from your computer or smartphone to another person over the network, a cybercriminal can essentially listen in and see this data while it’s being transmitted without you knowing, like listening to a conversation through a door. This way, private information can be recorded and used in an attack.
  • Malware – Public routers tend not to have the highest levels of security, and this makes it easy for hackers and other cybercriminals to access your device and implant malware within it without you realising it. This malicious software can be used to access your private information to steal your identity, passwords, or accessing your bank accounts, or it can be used to access your office network when you next login at work, compromising business accounts, financial information, or locking up the system for ransom.

What to Do to Keep Your Company and Team Safe

Of course, the best answer is to not use public WiFi networks of any kind, ever. It’s the easiest way to keep your device and sensitive information secure. However, this isn’t always practical – so here are some ways you can use public WiFi with relative safety if you need to:

  • Use a VPN as this will provide you with the highest levels of security outside of a secure WiFi network
  • Don’t allow your devices to auto-connect to WiFi hotspots
  • Avoid accessing any sensitive pages or accounts (banking, healthcare accounts, etc.)
  • Only use WiFi networks that require a password
  • Always disable file sharing
  • Only visit secure HTTPS websites

At Otto, our focus is on providing cost-effective, state-of-the-art IT services and solutions for businesses looking to operate efficiently and productively, from IT support and cloud solutions to network security and disaster recovery. Contact us and find out how we can help prevent your business from becoming a victim of cybercrime.