Wi-Fi Safety Tips When Connecting to Public Networks

If you use a mobile device, you’ve probably joined a free, public wifi network because of a need for access to fast Internet. Sadly, that public wifi connection is like a fishing pond for hackers and is one of their most popular targets. In this post, we’ll share common cyber risks to look out for while using public wifi and how to improve your wifi safety.

What is a public wifi Network

Public, free wifi is often available at places like airports, coffee shops, hotels, restaurants and even in downtown areas. It’s often offered as a free perk to entice people to enter or stay at a location. It is so widespread that we get frustrated when we have to pay for it, and it is common to not think twice before connecting. The problem is this “free benefit” can have a grave cost to your online privacy and digital security.

What are the biggest cybercrime risks with using insecure wifi?

Because we’re in the business of personal cybersecurity, our customers frequently ask us how the digitally dishonorable go about seeking and finding their data. Here are a few popular ways malicious actors leverage public wifi and put you and your data at risk:

A favorite trick of malicious attackers is to leverage insecure public wifi to eavesdrop on your digital whereabouts, snatching bank logins, email passwords, tax records, or worse. They can do this by setting up a rogue Network (e.g. a duplicate Network at your favorite coffee shop named “Favorite Coffee Shop wifi”) that allows them to monitor your traffic and potentially intercept any credentials you type into apps or websites. Remember the fishing analogy? That free Favorite Coffee Shop duplicate wifi Network connection could be a well-named fake that allows hackers to position themselves in between your data and the sites you’re visiting. If you joined that network in the first place, you’re the fish that bit the bait.

Another hacker technique? Those fake wifi network connections can redirect you to another site to install malware on your devices. Even public wifi with a password or WPA2 connection (the encryption standard that secures all modern Wi-Fi networks) doesn’t make your connection safe enough. Anyone who has the wifi password on a WPA2 connection can still target other users on the Network. Just because a public wifi connection has WPA2 doesn’t necessarily make it safer.

Technical names for these favorite wifi hacker tricks

Let’s go one click deeper. How do cyber experts refer to these types of attacks?

Man-in-the-Middle attacks – This type of attack is a form of eavesdropping. When a computer makes a connection to the Internet, data is sent from point A (computer) to point B (service/website), and vulnerabilities can allow an attacker to get in between these transmissions and “read” them. What you thought was private no longer is.

Snooping and sniffing – Cybercriminals often buy specialized software kits and devices to help assist them with eavesdropping on wifi signals. This technique can allow the attackers to access everything that you are doing online — from viewing whole webpages you have visited (including any information you may have filled out while visiting that webpage) to being able to capture your login credentials, and even hijack your accounts.

Malicious hotspots – These “rogue access points” trick victims into connecting to what they think is a legitimate network because the name sounds reputable. You may think you’re selecting the correct one when you click on “Favorite Coffee Shop wifi”, but you haven’t. Instead, you’ve just connected to a rogue hotspot set up by cybercriminals who can now view your private information.
Image of nefarious actor

Rubica’s list of wifi safety tips:

For most of us, completely eliminating the use of public wifi is probably out of the question. Here are a few wifi safety tips to limit your cyber risks in the Wild West of wifi:

Use a virtual private network (VPN). Secure your Public wifi connections with a VPN to encrypt all of your traffic and protect your devices from having traffic intercepted or redirected. Rubica’s Secure VPN provides a safe data tunnel through an encrypted channel between your devices and the websites you visit using VPN technology. We hide your real IP address to anonymize your devices so it’s very difficult for your online activities to be tracked or for your accounts to be hacked.

Tether your devices to your smartphone. If you have sufficient data on your wireless plan, you can use your phone’s hotspot and tether your other devices. This bypasses the public wifi risks all together.

Don’t access Personally Identifiable Information (PII). If you’re not using a VPN or tethering to protect your data tunnel, never access sensitive websites. In particular bank accounts, healthcare apps, and tax programs are easy targets for snatching PII. Even logging into social media sites is risky since it can expose your email and password.

Disable file sharing. Disable this in your device settings when you’re not on a trusted network. You don’t want to share a sensitive document with the wrong person.

Don’t auto connect to wifi or Bluetooth. This auto-setting can spontaneously connect to something unfriendly, opening the door for a flood of malware.

To avoid the very real cyber risks associated with using public Wi-Fi, some people are choosing to avoid public wifi entirely. At Rubica, we believe in protecting your digital life no matter what devices or networks you chose to use.

That’s why we built our product to secure your network access (via Rubica’s secure VPN) and our cyber technology stack to proactively monitor your devices and protect you from cyber risks. We want you to feel safe again – even when logging onto potentially insecure wifi. Rubica customers receive security alerts if our threat detection technology or elite cyber analysts identify anything is unsafe on your devices.

Not yet a Rubica customer? What are you waiting for? Get Rubica today!