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What You Need to Know about Public Wi-Fi

11.04.19 05:00 PM Comment(s) By Emily

Be warned, Public Wi-Fi is not as safe as most people think!

In a 2017 study performed by security company, Norton by Symantec, 60% of internet users around the world believe their personal information is safe when using public WiFi. Of the 40% of users who believe that their data is not secure, only 7% of internet users really understand how vulnerable they become when using public WiFi. 


As free public Wi-Fi is quite convenient, hackers often hang out where free public Wi-Fi is available in order to steal personal information from unsuspecting users. Hackers can download free software that, when used on the public Wi-Fi, will document any information that passes from a user to the website they are visiting, including passwords and financial data. Additionally, hackers can set up hot spots that people connect to for free. Upon connecting to the hacker’s hot spot, they can intercept all the information that is being passed between the individual and the website or even inject the connected devices with viruses. Norton Security by Symantec published a few tips to stay safe on public Wi-Fi: 


 Avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi. If you must use a public Wi-Fi hot spot, also use a virtual private network (VPN) to secure your connection. This will encrypt all of the information your device is sending and receiving.


 Don’t log in to password-protected websites that contain sensitive information when using a public Wi-Fi connection — for example, banking and social networking sites, or even email.


 Keep your software patched and up to date on all your devices — even your mobile ones — to avoid any potential infections by viruses or malware if you do use unsecured public Wi-Fi. 


For example, an individual decides into stop at a Starbucks and while waiting on line for coffee, they decide to connect to the Starbucks Wi-Fi and check some emails. After opening a few work emails, they see that their bank sent an email, notifying them that a check has cleared, and funds were added to their account. In order to ensure the funds made it successfully, they decide to login to their bank account. They open the bank’s app or website and input their username and password to login and find the funds are, indeed, in their account. At this point they’ve received their coffee and head back to their car.  


Meanwhile, while this individual was waiting on line, reading their emails and checking their bank account, there is a customer sitting in the corner at a table with their laptop open, using software to intercept all activity on the free Starbucks Wi-Fi network. In the few minutes that the individual was in line and waiting for their drink, that hacker was able to use this software to see all of the emails that the individual opened along with any attachments to those emails. Additionally, the hacker now knows the individual’s bank and login information, simply because the individual was not aware of the risks involved with using public Wi-Fi.

Click the button below to view and article from PC Magazine, which lists some more steps for being safe when using public Wi-Fi. 
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