The first thing that may come in mind when thinking about public Wi-Fi is the freedom to connect to the Internet without spending money but many of us have used public Wi-Fi hotspots without much thought of whether they are secure or not.
Usually public Wi-Fi hotspots are the ones offered by restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, coffee shops or public transport. This seems like a great and easy option to avail of, especially to those who travel and have limited access to the Internet due to roaming fees or data caps. Thus tourists may have a higher rate of being vulnerable to cyber attacks.
According to Harvard Business Review “You’re rolling the dice every time you log on to a free network in a coffee shop, hotel lobby or airport lounge.”
Even though we tend to trust the management of a hotel or coffee shop, thinking that their network is secure, often at times they may not be aware of their network being penetrated by outside intruders, not until being too late.
Man-in-the-Middle Attacks (MITM)
This is the most performed attack among public wifi hotspots. As the title entails, a MITM attack enables attackers to place themselves between two users/connections while intercepting the data and making the victim’s device think the hacker’s machine is the access point to the internet.
This attack clones an existing wireless network name and deceives you thinking that you are connecting to a secure wi-fi hotspot. For example, when logging in the free Wi-Fi at a coffee shop somewhere nearby a hacker is boosting a stronger Wi-Fi signal off of their laptop, tricking you into using it by labelling it with the cafe’s name. Once in, this allows the attacker to have access to your sensitive data and monitor your activity without you knowing.
What can be done?
When using a free public Wi-Fi whether is at the hotel you are staying in or the coffee shop around the corner, make sure to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This enables you to encrypt all your online activity making it more safe and secure.
Another alternative is to rent a pocket wifi, which is password protected, encrypted and firewall secured. Moreover this allows you to have unlimited access to the Internet anytime and anywhere during your holiday. And you can connect up to 10 smart devices, which is great for sharing with friends and family members.