Public Wi-Fi. We see them everywhere, in airports, cafes, shopping malls and countless other places. Chances are, each and every single one of us has logged onto a public Wi-Fi at least once, if not way more. Even some hotels and residential buildings offer public Wi-Fi.

Although it’s extremely tempting to tap into these free Wi-Fi offers practically anywhere you go, is a public Wi-Fi safe to use or not? That’s the real question you should be asking and one that we’ll answer in this article.

Is Public Wi-Fi Dangerous?

One danger of a public Wi-Fi is that they are so common and widespread that people don’t really give a second thought to the security of the network. Sure, if you’re just browsing Google and a few random websites, you’re not likely to encounter any serious problems, but what if you decide to access your internet banking or some other critical and sensitive website on a public network? Is it safe to do so?

Business owners are attempting to provide a convenient public service by offering free Wi-Fi and this is a good thing, but the problem is, security for these public networks is often third-rate or totally nonexistent. Therefore, while the majority of people probably don’t even give cyber security a second thought when accessing these free networks, you can be putting yourself at tremendous risk by using them, especially if you are tapping into public Wi-Fi on a regular basis.

What Is a “Man in the Middle” Attack?

MitM, or Man in the Middle, is one of the most common security threats on any public Wi-Fi that lacks adequate security for its users. It’s a form of cyber eavesdropping. In other words, attackers can get in the middle of the lines of transmission on a public Wi-Fi network and read what’s being sent back and forth. People might think everything is private, when in actual fact it’s not in most cases.

Then there’s what’s known as snooping and sniffing, where cybercriminals use special software so they can eavesdrop on Wi-Fi signals and the information that passes between users. This software can allow cybercriminals to see everything you’re doing online and they can also capture login details.

The Potential for Unencrypted Networks

When routers are shipped from the manufacturer, encryption is often turned off by default. Once installed by an IT professional, encryption is then turned on and this helps to safeguard the network against cyber attacks.

The issue with a public Wi-Fi network is whether or not the connection is encrypted. You, as a user, really have no idea whether it’s a secure connection, or one that’s open to all sorts of vulnerabilities.

Encryption basically means that all the information passing over the network is in a secret code and can’t be deciphered by hackers, but without it, the network is literally like an open book for a cybercriminal. Public networks should generally be considered unsafe because you don’t know for certain whether they are secure or not.

Staying Safe When Using a Public Wi-Fi Network

Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is one of the most effective ways to stay safe from vulnerabilities when using a public Wi-Fi. If you don’t have a VPN, then following a few common sense tips will help keep you safe:

  • For starters, never log onto your internet banking when on a public network. If you are logged into your social media accounts, get into the practice of logging out of them when you are done.
  • Another tip is not to fill out online forms using a public network, or a hacker could steal your details and use them for their own nefarious purposes.
  • Also, turn off your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth functions when you’re not using them.
  • And never log onto a network that isn’t password protected.

Business Owners: Seek Advice and Support From a Professional IT Consultant

For businesses who want to offer customers WiFi, it’s best you start by getting in touch with the experts at Future Computers. Our IT consultants are happy to take your call and discuss all IT solutions with you, which includes setting up safe and secure public Wi-Fi networks.