Who doesn’t love public WiFi? It’s exciting to connect to a free public WiFi network, but do people realize how dangerous public WiFi networks can be? When connecting, you could be putting your personal information out there where any malicious actor can get to it. There are a plethora of dangers that people don’t know about, so Kirkham.IT is here to share the most common risks of using a public WiFi network.

1 – Fraudulent WiFi Networks – Fake WiFi networks are a big danger that people don’t realize when they connect to a public network. While it’s tempting to connect to a network that is offering free internet, it could also be extremely damaging. Of course, free internet (free anything) is exciting, but is it worth having your information stolen? If you happen to connect to a fake network, your information is up for grabs. Be extremely diligent about connecting to WiFi. Keep a close watch on your device settings! A good rule of thumb is to keep your WiFi setting off when you’re not using it. By doing this, you’re ruling out the chances of your device(s) connecting to a fraudulent network. 

A great way to protect yourself against many cyber dangers (including a fake WiFi network) is by using a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs are a secure way to surf the internet and make sure your devices’ data is encrypted. ExpressVPN and NordVPN are two great options for a virtual private network! Do some research on what’s best for you.

2 – Personal Information Vulnerability – Passwords, email addresses, banking information… It’s important, right? You don’t want just anyone to have your personal information. Connecting to a public WiFi network puts you at risk of having this information stolen. This is the biggest goal of a cybercriminal when they hack into a public WiFi network. If you happen to connect to a public WiFi network, don’t input any information that you wouldn’t mind anyone else knowing.

The best way to make sure your passwords, email addresses, banking information, etc. stay safe is by using a password manager. They’re super easy to use, inexpensive, and can save your information from being stolen. We suggest Keeper, but there’s plenty of options out there. 

3 – Possible Malware – Do you get nervous when you hear the word malware? Because you should. Malware is extremely scary, and connecting to public WiFi networks puts you at risk of contracting malicious activity like computer viruses or computer worms. As earlier stated, be cautious! Don’t click on anything that looks suspicious and try to stay away from public WiFi networks in general.

4 – Potential Attacks – As stated in risk #3, malware is a huge problem that you can encounter when using public wifi, but there are also other attack methods. Snooping and sniffing are two common methods that hackers use. When hackers use a public wifi network to gain access to your devices, they can snoop around and steal usernames, passwords, payment information, or any other sensitive personal information. All of this data is worth stealing. When snooping, cybercriminals can be on your devices without you even knowing. Having a cybersecurity company looking out for these things is extremely helpful, but you should also stay on the lookout yourself.

Another extremely prevalent attack is man-in-the-middle attacks. Man-in-the-middle attacks are a huge risk that could arise while using public wifi networks. Man-in-the-middle attacks are common and can be as easy as connecting to a public wifi network. While connected to this network, cybercriminals can be waiting to intercept your information. They’ll let you connect to the internet, but they’ll be constantly watching you and saving the information you’re inputting.

While coming across a free WiFi network might be exciting, the risks aren’t worth it. Your personal information is important, and cyber criminals realize that. They can easily trick you into giving them passwords or bank information. Make sure to keep these risks in mind next time your phone or computer suggests you connect to a free WiFi network!

Check out our infographic on reasons to avoid public wifi here.