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Working on Public Wi-Fi? Think Twice!

The consequences from working on public Wi-Fi have drawn attention to a range of market players from antivirus computer software like Norton and Kaspersky to criminal investigation institutions such as Europol. Reason being that public Wi-Fi poses tremendous number of risks when accessed on widespread networks. While business owners may believe they are providing a valuable service to their customers, chances are that the security on these networks is lax or nonexistent.

The recent explosion of free, public Wi-Fi has been embraced by most of the working professionals. Since free access points are available in restaurants, hotels, airports, bookstores, and even random shops, one has swift access to the network and personal work. This perk comes at a price, though, and few truly understand the public Wi-Fi risks associated with these connections. Learning how to protect yourself will ensure your important business data remains safe.

When you connect to an open Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop or airport, that specific network is generally unencrypted — it is not necessary to enter a passphrase to access the internet. Your unencrypted network traffic is then clearly visible to everyone in range. People can see what unencrypted web pages you’re visiting, what you’re typing into unencrypted web forms, and even see which encrypted websites you’re connected to — if you’re connected to your bank’s website, it will be public, yet it is not public what you are doing.

Therefore, the same features that make free Wi-Fi hotspots popular for consumers make them an easy catch for hackers as it requires no authentication to establish a network connection. This is an opportunity for hackers to get unrestricted access to unsecured devices on the same network. So, the hacker can position himself between you and the connection point and instead of a direct connection with the hotspot, unconsciously you are sending information to the hacker. This is how thieves get access to every detail sent out on the Internet: emails, credit card information and passwords. The consequences can be unpleasant.

Unsecured Wi-Fi connections are also used to distribute malware. If you allow file-sharing across a network, a virus can easily be planted on your computer. There were cases when hackers managed to hack the connection point and a pop-up window would appear during the connection process offering an upgrade to a software you are using on that device. By clicking it, the malware gets installed causing in some cases even permanent computer damage.

However, there are legit ways to avoid such events. You can use a virtual private network (VPN) to keep data in an encrypted mode throughout the whole period of online browsing. This is a quick and simple way to access public Wi-Fi while providing safety and privacy. Equally important is to enable your firewall and use up-to-date antivirus software. Turn off file sharing to keep away tempted intruders and turn off automatic connection feature within the Wi-Fi settings. The latter will prevent your devices from connecting to public or open internet hotspots without personal action. In case you are using the browser, you can check for HTTPS which indicated that SSL encryption is active and any communication from your side is likely to be secure.

Understanding public Wi-Fi risks will ensure your important business data doesn't become just another hacking statistic. You can still enjoy your Saturday morning at a coffee shop using the free Wi-Fi if you make sure to ensure the bare minimum of security for your devices. There are serious threats lurking in the background on public Wi-Fi and you don’t want to take the risks while you balance your bank account or send personal emails.

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