You’re sitting at your next door Starbucks and connect your device to the local WiFi network as you wait for your friend to show up. It’s free, so why not use it to kill some time right? However, this may put your public WiFi security at risk as you could be tapping into a fake WiFi hotspot and exposing yourself to a hacker.
If you regularly use free WiFi, it’s important to double check before logging into open WiFi hotspots on your device. After all, you wouldn’t want the information you send through apps or websites to be accessed by somebody else. Read on to find out more about free WiFi scams and how to stay protected from them.
How Free WiFi Scams Work?
Hackers will set up a fake WiFi hotspot at the airport, hotel lobby, coffee shop, restaurant, or other public places with innocuous names like “Public WiFi network” or “Free WiFi”. They might use a service set identifier (SSID) similar to that of a nearby legitimate WiFi hotspot so that users don’t hesitate in connecting to it.
While you’re able to browse the Internet once connected, the hackers can see everything that you do online as all your traffic passes through them. This is how they’re able to steal your personal information such as your credit card details or even take over your device and its contents – if you’ve left your file sharing on!
There’s another version as well where you have to pay a small fee for Internet access. Upon signing into the fake WiFi hotspot, you’re redirected to a new page and prompted to enter your credit card information. Of course, these details are then accessible to the hackers and used to commit identity fraud and other crimes.
How to Stay Safe from Free WiFi Scams?
It can indeed be tricky to identity fake WiFi hotspots as hackers (if they’re good enough) design them to spoof or mimic the ones you commonly find in public places.
Nonetheless, there are some standard practices that should be followed when it comes to using public WiFi connections, whether they’re legit or fake.
Check Authenticity of WiFi Connection
If you’re at a place with free WiFi, always verify the correct name and password of the WiFi hotspot from its owner before joining. Remember, if there’s no WPA or WPA2 password, the connection will be unencrypted, and in turn, more risky.
Browse HTTPS Websites
Only browse sites that start with HTTPS while on public WiFi hotspots, especially when it comes to doing something as sensitive as online banking. This indicates your connection to the site is encrypted and reduces the risk of man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks.
Use a VPN
If you travel a lot and rely on public WiFi hotspots for connectivity, consider using a virtual private network (VPN) like PureVPN. Not only does it mask your real IP address with one of its 88,000+ shared IPs, but also encrypts entire connection so that you can browse the Internet securely. Furthermore, revolutionary Ozone features help you combat malware, annoying ads, and malicious traffic! Not only this, PureVPN also helps travelers to get instant access of any channel from anywhere. For e.g, if you are in UK and want to get access to US Netflix, you can easily do it by getting a Netflix VPN in a secure way.
Manually Connect to Free WiFi
It’s crucial to make sure your device is configured to manually select a network, instead of having it connect automatically. Doing this will prevent the possibility of you unknowingly connecting to fake WiFi hotspots.
Update Software Regularly
Updating and patching software on a regular basis is an essential WiFi security practice. Keep your browser and other software up-to-date with the latest versions to fix bugs. Also, an up-to-date antivirus will protect your device from the latest threats.
Employ Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security by asking for second authentication factor, such as a one-time code. This adds another step for hackers to gain access to your online accounts, including social media and banking.
Switch WiFi off When Not in Use
Though this sounds obvious, most people make the mistake of keeping their WiFi on for prolonged periods even when they’re not using it. Turning off your WiFi will go a long way in protecting you from hackers – if they can’t see you, they can’t target you!
And that’s about it… Follow the tips mentioned above to stay protected from free WiFi scams. Feel free to share this guide with your friends and family so they too can take the necessary steps to secure their devices from fake WiFi hotspots.
Haris Shahid has a genuine passion in covering the latest happenings in the cyber security and digital landscape. He likes getting out and about, but mostly ends up spending too much of his time behind a computer keyboard.