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Working professionals have greatly benefited from the recent proliferation of public Wi-Fi. Since one can find these access points just about anywhere these days—restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, malls, book stores, and even random retail outlets—you are never more than a few miles away from free high-speed Internet. However, the freedom and convenience of hanging out at your local café and using free Wi-Fi to catch up on a few work assignments come at a cost. The security on these networks is often lax or nonexistent, which means that numerous threats are lurking in the background on public Wi-Fi at all times.

In this post, we discuss the three most common security risks associated with using free Wi-Fi hotspots. Learning about these will help you protect yourself and ensure the security of your critical business data.

The Risks

The same feature that makes public Wi-Fi appealing to most people also makes it appealing to hackers—the lack of authentication required to establish a network connection. This provides an excellent opportunity for the hacker to obtain unrestricted access to unsecured devices connected to the same Wi-Fi hotspot.

1. Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack

A Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack is the most serious threat to free Wi-Fi security. A MitM attack, as the name suggests, is a form of eavesdropping in which an attacker positions himself between you and the server you are trying to access, with you none the wiser. This means that the attacker has access to every bit of information you send over the Internet, including login credentials, important emails, bank details, etc. 

2. Malware Distribution

Malware injection is another common form of attack on free Wi-Fi hotspots. Attackers can exploit software vulnerabilities on your device by writing malicious and hidden code that targets a specific vulnerability and then slipping the malware onto your device. If the attacker did his job correctly, you would most likely not realize anything has happened until it is far too late.

3. Rogue Network

Rogue networks are unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots set up by an attacker to trick you into connecting to what appears to be a legitimate network. An attacker can achieve this by creating an unsecured access point in the name of a nearby business to which you can connect, blissfully unaware of the threat. Say you are staying at the Holiday Inn and want to use the hotel’s Wi-Fi. You might think you have chosen the right one when you click on “Holiday 1nn Free WiFi,” but you have not. Instead, you have just connected to a rogue Wi-Fi hotspot set up by attackers, who now have access to your private information.

The Last Word

As free public Wi-Fi becomes more widespread, risks associated with it are likely to grow too. However, this does not imply that you should abandon free Wi-Fi in favor of tethering yourself to a desk. The overwhelming majority of hackers are always looking for easy targets, so following a few simple precautions should keep your data protected.

If you want to browse the web securely when you are out and about, you should use a VPN. If you need help finding the right solution for you, our team of experts can assist you with making the right choice for your needs. Click to learn more about our services or contact us to setup a consultation.