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How safe are Public Wi-Fi Networks

Public Wi-Fi hotspots have popped up all over our cities, from restaurants and malls, to local parks. They are convenient and relatively easy to access, and tend to evoke that data saving scrooge inside us all. The City of Cape Town has even jumped on board and are beginning to provide public Wi-Fi hotspots for more and more suburbs with aim of having at least one hotspot per ward.

With so many of us connecting to these hotspots and the ever increasing threat from cybercriminals it is important to understand and be aware of the dangers of using public Wi-Fi.

Here are a few things to keep in mind;

  1. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are open networks and are therefore vulnerable to attacks. Although some public networks require that you set up login credentials in order to access and use the facility this does not mean that it is secure and that cyber criminals could not gain access to the network.
  2. Anyone who is connected to the network could easily capture data traffic from your device. It’s becoming increasingly easy for cybercriminals to obtain tools used to capture data traffic. Once they have access to this information it can be used to hack into your personal accounts.
  3. Hotspots could be set up by cyber criminals to look like legitimate public Wi-Fi hotspots. These fake hotspots are used to trick users into accessing the network that they believe to be provided by a legitimate host and then gain access to their information.
  4. Any devise you use on a public network is at risk. Whether you are using your laptop, tablet or mobile all devises are at risk of being hacked.

Although there are definitely risks involved with using public Wi-Fi, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take advantage of all the free Wi-Fi available to us, so here are a few key tips to use when connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots.

  • Use a VPN, a virtual private network will ensure that all data from your device is encrypted, meaning that even if hackers gain access to your data they will not be able to read it.
  • If you are using your laptop make sure you identify the hotspot as a Public Network, this ensures that files cannot be shared with other users on the network as they would be on a home network or work network.
  • Be cyber savvy, don’t access sites such as online banking on a public network to reduce the risk of having valuable information stolen.

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