Let us paint a picture:
You go to the coffee shop to get some work done – as many of us do — and log into their public WiFi. You check your email, download critical organizational documents, and make a purchase while you’re procrastinating.
Sound familiar? Many of us do this daily. Sounds innocuous, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not.
The moment you sign onto public WiFi, you make yourself vulnerable to attack by hackers.
That confidential organizational document you downloaded? Compromised. The card info you used for your purchase? Stolen.
Because WiFi travels through public airwaves, hackers can easily intercept your information on public networks. Moreover, these networks are often unencrypted, insecure, or improperly configured. This is especially true for airport public networks.
Ron Craig, a Cybersecurity Awareness Professional, warns that hackers can also set up networks with the same name to intercept your information.
In fact, at San Diego International Airport, the most cyber vulnerable airport, according to Coronet, hackers set up an “Evil Twin” network named “SANfreewifi.” Similarly, hackers at Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport created a WiFi network called “SouthwestWiFi.”
Not only can your personal information be intercepted, but according to Craig, some viruses and malware can be sent through public WiFi as well.
Avoid Being Hacked
To avoid being hacked, you don’t need to stop using public WiFi altogether — but you do have to use it with caution.
The first rule of thumb is to never send sensitive information – company documents and credit card info – through public WiFi.
You can also set up two-factor authentication for all your web services. Whenever you log in, a text will be sent to your phone; this makes it much more difficult for hackers to access your data.
In addition, we recommend setting up a VPN or a virtual private network. VPNs are a secure and private network that can extend across a public network. If you access a VPN connection when using public WiFi, your information is protected.
Craig also suggests upgrading to an unlimited data plan to Hotspot your phone instead. It has more benefit than cost, he argues.
Block cookies. Remove tracking. Avoid untrusted software.
Always be one step ahead.