By Megan Farnam
Most of us carry our smart phones with us and many people are now working remotely post-pandemic after seeing that it can be a successful work option. With our phones at our fingertips, we can scroll through social media, shop online, read a book, or carry out a zoom/FaceTime call from anywhere. We might even have the convenience of working different locations for a change of scenery.
In an attempt to attract customers and also have them remain in their stores longer, more and more companies have been offering free wi-fi while in their store or restaurant. While this is incredibly convenient for the user and a very effective business move for the store, is using the public wi-fi safe? What are the dangers that we might be exposing ourselves to?
According to Cisco systems, there are approximately 549 million Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide. With the great convenience of Wi-Fi comes great vulnerabilities on phones, tablets, and laptops that can easily be hacked when on public Wi-Fi. Hackers are able to generate what is referred to as an “evil twin” where they create a duplicate Wi-Fi access point that unsuspecting users connect to and put their private information at risk. Public Wi-Fi generally is not secure enough to maintain encryption and authentication processes fully and can create a space for hackers to capture users’ private information. This can make the user vulnerable to identity theft, social media profile hacking/duplicating, credit card information being collected, or compromise of sensitive work information.
Steps you can take to protect yourself while using public Wi-Fi:
- Connect to websites securely. The “s” in “https://” stands for secure, meaning you are securely connected to that website (it does not ensure that the website is secure). If you are accessing an unknown site, you may still be at risk.
- Use a VPN (virtual private network) that is either provided by your employer or ourchased by you.
- Avoid accessing or providing private or financial information while using public wi-fi
- Log out of your accounts when you are finished using them
- Use different passwords for each website/account
- Ensure your device settings are not set up to automatically connected to nearby Wi-Fi
It is safest to use a secured/home wireless network or your mobile data from your phone when accessing or entering private or sensitive information.
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