- November 12, 2021
- 7 minutes Read
- Security & Privacy
It sounds good to know that in spite of all the allure of convenience, fun, ecstasy, and the largesse of using public Wi-Fi, whether, at a coffee shop, airport, café, shopping mall, hotel, or public library, it does not really come without a price.
However, “coffee shop” is used here to denote all public free Wi-Fi spots which include all the abovementioned places and more. So, when you go to a coffee shop to enjoy internet service and think it is utterly free, always have in mind that you’re indirectly paying the price.
But most importantly, you’re getting yourself involved in high risk, which may jeopardize your personal privacy and security. Actually, there is nothing like a ‘‘free lunch “in using public Wi-Fi. Through omission or commission, you must pay for the service.
Now, let’s look at some of the ways these happen.
1. Information About You is “stolen” and sold
First of all, you need to know that whenever or wherever you browse on public Wi-Fi, you have unwittingly exposed a lot of information about yourself to marketing companies. Perhaps, you may not know that whenever you connect to any public Wi-Fi, the Wi-Fi network will see your MAC address on the Wi-Fi chip in your device. This is a unique code that is required to make the Wi-Fi function.
Whenever you connect to the Wi-Fi network, this unique code tells the people operating the Wi-Fi things about you and they can align the unique code with other available datasets for sale by data brokers. It may sound incredible for you to know that there are indeed data brokers, and this is where their’ job’ comes in handy, to collect information about you, an unsuspecting Wi-Fi user, for sale.
You need to know that immediately after you connect to public Wi-Fi, marketing companies and their agents monitor every move you make. It may be appalling when you realize the amount of data of yours that has passed through the hands of public Wi-Fi networks you’ve used previously which you probably didn’t remember.
2. You are at the mercy of hackers
Some of the numerous public Wi-Fi networks found at coffee shops, cafes, malls, and other public places are at high risk because many of them do not require any form of authentication before connection. They are designed to appear very easy to access, but they’re highly vulnerable.
Supposing you’re sharing a file on this type of volatile network and a bad fellow is lurking by. He may likely insert dangerous software or simply eavesdrop or poke his nose to steal your vital information, which you send through an unencrypted connection.
When you surf through free Wi-Fi in the bid to connect to a network, and you notice myriads of network lists that require you to click, you should apply restraint. Some of these networks are fake and actually set as a trap by hackers to let you join the networks.
Once the hackers intercept your connection, they will come up with a ‘’man-in-the-middle” onslaught to steal your passwords and other private information. If the URL of your network shows” HTTPS’’, it means your information is encrypted and therefore protected, but if you’re browsing on a pure “HTTP’’, what you do online will be exposed to others.
What to Do in Order Not to Be Hacked When Using Public Wi-Fi
1. Use public Wi-Fi that requires a password to log in
Prevention, they say, is better than cure. The very first preventive measure is to avoid using public Wi-Fi that does not require any form of authentication or password to log in. Public Wi-Fi is unsecured when you can log in without a password. This means that any information that passes through the network can be seen by anyone using the network since the traffic is not encrypted by the Wi-Fi connection.
A secured Wi-Fi requires encryption to log in because the password requirement means some form of encryption is inherent in the Wi-Fi itself. As long as there is nothing you can do to remold a public Wi-Fi that has been designed the way it is, to make it any more secure, there are things you can do to make your data more secure while using public Wi-Fi.
2. Use VPN
Public Wi-Fi requires some form of encryption over the Wi-Fi itself. This is the work of VPN. A VPN, also known as a Virtual Private Network, encrypts every information that passes through your computer or device. It will ensure that no one within the Wi-Fi network will notice your data, not even the people that run the Wi-Fi.
While using Symlex VPN, always enable your inbuilt firewall to protect you from everyone who is operating from the same router as you.
3. Ensure that your password is protected
Protect your passwords. It is hazardous to store your passwords on your devices. Under no circumstance should you allow your apps to remember your passwords.
Your private details, such as your banking, ATM card, credit card, and other financial transactions information, should remain private and not be divulged by storing them on your devices. If you do so, someone may break into your device and have access to your private account.
4. Connect to secure websites
Secure websites are those that come with ’HTTPS on their web address. It provides a secure connection to the website.
5. Make use of your mobile data
If you’re in a coffee shop with the intent to make use of public WiFi, but you’re not sure you’re operating on a secure network, and you don’t have VPN to encrypt your connection, you should make use of your mobile data instead of the Wi-Fi.
This should be the best resort, especially when you’re not sure that the apps you want to use are encrypted. For emphasis, while using public Wi-Fi, whether in a coffee shop or anywhere, don’t access your financial information. Always have in your mind that public Wi-Fi is very precarious.
6. Don’t stay glued to an account
When you have finished using any account, make sure you log out.
7. Make use of alternate passwords
Using the same password for different accounts will make you vulnerable to hackers. If someone gains access to any of your accounts, the person can access other accounts, also.
8. Ensure that your browser does not connect automatically to nearby Wi-Fi:
You can do this by changing the settings of your device.
9. Don’t ignore warnings:
Some web browsers issue warning signals about suspicious websites. These signals should not be undermined.
10. Browser add-ons and plug-ins can help:
Free Firefox add-ons can force the browser to apply encryption on websites that are not encrypted. You can apply this to ensure more security.
Key take away
As we’ve seen, public Wi-Fi is like an open bus that anyone can enter. As such, their users have no control over their security. Even if you may not have control over the security or operations of public Wi-Fi, we have listed some things you can do to help you keep your data secure while using public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or any public place.
If you could apply the panacea which has been analyzed, browsing public Wi-Fi would be a sweep over.