Millions of Brits heading abroad this summer could be leaving themselves vulnerable to cyber attacks, because they haven’t taken the necessary precautions to protect their online identity and personal information when using public WiFi, warns Virtual Private Network (VPN) review site Top10VPN.com.
Free WiFi is now readily available in airports, coffee shops, bars, restaurants, hotel rooms and shopping centres. And most of us will log onto a free WiFi connection if there’s one available, to avoid eating into mobile data allowances or paying high roaming charges.
But many people will be unaware of the potential dangers of using public WiFi, ie networks that don’t require a password. Even if you need a password to access a network, it doesn’t guarantee that network is safe. And without adequate protection, you could be at risk of cyber criminals seeing your internet activity and getting hold of your personal information.
Top10VPN has drawn up a list of simple steps you can take to ensure when using public WiFi that your internet activity remains private, and you don’t fall victim to cyber-crime this summer.
- Wherever possible try and stick to well-known, ideally password-protected networks, such as in a recognised store or coffee shop you’ve used before. The more networks you sign up to, the more likely it is that you’ll sign up to one that won’t treat your personal data as carefully as it should.
- Avoid browsing websites that use an unencrypted HTTP connection. Stick to encrypted HTTPS websites, because when you browse these sites, people on the same WiFi network as you won’t be able to snoop on data that is travelling between you and the server you’re connecting to.
- Be careful about signing up to public WiFi where the provider asks you for personal details such as your email address and mobile number. It’s better to connect through a service you’re already registered for, than signing up to another company.
- If possible, try and limit using file sharing and AirDrop to reduce the risk of someone grabbing your files. Better still, turn off both options on your devices whenever you’re on public WiFi to avoid the temptation.
- Turn on the firewall as it acts as a barrier that protects your devices from malware threats. It won’t provide complete protection, but it will monitor and block certain kinds of data packets coming from networks.
- Use antivirus software to detect malware that might get into your system while using a shared network.
- If possible, avoid online shopping or logging into bank accounts when using an unsecured WiFi network as you don’t want to risk your personal financial information getting into the wrong hands.
- Turn off automatic connectivity on your phones, laptops and tablets to avoid your devices connecting to networks you wouldn’t ordinarily use.
- The safest and most effective way to browse on public WiFi is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). It encrypts data travelling to and from your devices and connects you to the internet via a secure server, ensuring that whoever is on the network or operating the network, won’t be able to see what you’re doing or be able to grab your personal information.
Simon Migliano, Head of Research at Top10VPN.com, says: “Public WiFi is convenient but it’s also open and less secure than your personal, private network. Not only will you not know who set it up nor who else is connected, anyone using the same WiFi network is able to see what you’re doing on your laptop or smartphone as your data is not encrypted on these networks.
“Cyber criminals know all the tricks in the book. They can easily intercept communications between the public WiFi user and the WiFi router and capture and view all your incoming and outgoing data. More sophisticated criminals can send files to unsuspecting users infected with malware if their file sharing is enabled or trick them into joining a fake network and then gain access to their personal information.
“The chances of being a victim to cyber-crime, and someone stealing your personal identity while sitting in an airport lounge or hotel room, may be relatively slim – but why take the chance?”