Public wi-fi – treat with caution

Public wi-fi – treat with caution

Reading Time: 2 minutes19th October 2017 | Modified: 19th December 2022

Categories: Web Connectivity

Beware of public wi-fi hotspots where hackers may be waiting to intrude into your world.

The increasing mobility of workforces means that more people are spending time in coffee shops, airports and other public places using public wi-fi and exposing their company or personal data to possible theft or infection.

As the Harvard Business Review reported, people are still connecting to open, unencrypted networks despite being increasingly aware of the dangers. At last year’s Republican and Democratic National Conventions, 70 per cent of people connected to non-secure wi-fi networks. These were two events where lots of confidential information was probably being exchanged but many politicians were presumably oblivious to the risks they were taking.

Hackers target hotspots

The UK government’s National Cyber Security Centre takes the threat very seriously. A recent report warned holidaymakers about unsafe hotspots across Europe that might be targeted by hackers.

Gary Jowett from CNC in Shoreham says: “One of the big dangers of using these open wi-fi networks is a hacker may be nearby using a stronger wi-fi signal and posing as genuine access to the internet. As the unwitting victim surfs the web using this bogus hotspot, the hacker can pick up lots of tantalising details about passwords, personal banking codes and also gain access to email accounts.”

If you really have to use a public wi-fi connection there are a few simple rules to observe.

The most important one is to use your organisation’s virtual private network (VPN) to connect via the public wi-fi. This means you’re accessing the internet via an encrypted tunnel similar to your own personal motorway lane that’s sealed off from all other drivers.

Use secure access

Also, make sure you use two-factor authentication when you log-on to sensitive sites. This is what many people already do when they use online banking services to instruct a payment using a personal card reader. It throws up random codes only you can see so it’s safe from the prying eyes of cyber criminals.

Another tip is to watch out for vulnerable websites by checking the url. Only visit those with a url that starts “https”. Anything without the “s” isn’t safe.

In fact, if you just want to check something quickly while sipping your latte, it’s a lot safer to access the internet via your smartphone’s mobile network connection because 3G and 4G is much safer than public wi-fi.

Gary says: “There are many sales and service people across Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Hampshire and elsewhere in the south east who are on the road most of the time and only occasionally check in to their office for a meeting. They need to be educated about the dangers that lurk in the numerous public wi-fi hotspots across the UK. The key message is always: it’s better to be safe than sorry meaning always use your company’s VPN to keep safe and secure otherwise that innocent break to check emails at a motorway service station or airport could cause serious damage to your business.”

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By Gary

Gary has always focused on making sure the most appropriate solution is provided to help customers, not just what's new and shiny. With over 30 years in the IT industry Gary has the experience to tell the difference between something that's game-changing or is just a passing fad!