Why You Shouldn't Use Public WiFi

The dangers behind public hotspots

If you still connect to random public WiFi - you should consider the following information before doing it again. It doesn’t matter if you are just casually scrolling through Facebook, working or accessing confidential information, you are at risk.

There are many reasons why it is tempting to utilise public WiFi, but at the end of the day submitting data across a network that you are not 100% sure is secure and encrypted can very easily lead to a breach of sensitive information.  

The Basics

When you connect to public Wifi, you run the risk of connecting to a fake network posing as a well known free hotspot. These fake networks are designed to look exactly like the real networks and still provide you access to the internet, but they have one key difference. When you connect to these networks, the perpetrators can gain access to everything you send over it from passwords to sensitive emails, to bank account details.

Even if you connect to secure sites (Those using SSL encryption) hackers are able to bypass the encryption and access your data. Or, even worse, they are able to trick you and your web browser into thinking that sites you access are real when, in reality, its all staged by them to collect your usernames and password.

These fake networks can often be incredibly hard to pick out from the real networks. For example, an airport could have a WiFi hotspot named “AIRPORT_FREE_WIFI”, so an attacker will come by and set up a network named “FREE_AIRPORT_WIFI” or “AIRPORT_WIFI”, hoping that someone sees their name first and joins before ever realising that it isn’t the correct hotspot.

The risks of using public WiFi

So, everything you do can be seen and recorded. Every site you use and every program you access is now visible.

We understand that most of the time you will use secured WiFi or hotspot to your mobile data. Therefore, the majority of the time you are going to be connecting to a secure network. 

It is important to remember that hosting a WiFi network is not a cheap thing to do. Therefore, why would you connect to an unknown WiFi hot spot if they do not require you to submit a password (like cafes or restaurants)?

If you do decide to connect to a random free network, remember that attacks can come at any point and it only requires one single bad connection to create a massive headache for you. The hackers could be installing malware, ordering new credit cards or reading your personal documents and you will have no idea whatsoever that this is occurring.

Our Recommendations:

  • Avoid using public WiFi by:

    • Upgrading your phone plan to include more data and use that. From a price point of view, it is becoming more accessible to increase data on your plan without paying through the roof.

    • If you are travelling overseas, get a portable internet connection or only connect to secure connections. i.e., if at the airport look for signs with the exact combinations of words or letters that the WiFi name is under

    • Ask a local business for their secure WiFi credentials. Do not connect if it does not require a password. 

  • If you must use public WiFi: 

    • Never connect to a network that does not require you to enter a password.

    • Never look at sensitive information, such as your banking details when logged into an 'unsecured network'. 

    • Do not enter passwords for any of your programs. Even if you prompt to log in, we don't recommend openly submitting logging credentials.

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