Our devices are perhaps at their most vulnerable when connected to a public hotspot. This is because on a public network your device and traffic are vulnerable to the hotspot owner, and in some cases anyone else inside. In essence, this means that the websites that you visit and all unencrypted information that you send can be seen by anyone in the same café or airport lounge.
We might think that a password-protected public network is secure. But if the password is available to anyone who asks, how could it possibly help your security? Even worse, a lot of public Wi‑Fi safety threats do not even require the hacker to join the network.
A common trick that hackers use is called the Evil Twin. If you see a hotspot with the name of a café or the words “FREE AIRPORT WIFI”, do you think twice about joining? Criminals can set up hotspots with innocent names using inexpensive, store-bought devices. They then steal the data of everyone connecting to their so-called free Wi‑Fi. Verify that the network is safe. If you can’t, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Another very common hacking trick is called the man-in-the-middle attack. This involves a criminal on the same hotspot inserting themselves between you and the rest of the internet and compromising your public Wi‑Fi security. Instead of connecting to your favorite online shop or online bank, the hacker may instead connect you to a page that looks similar. You might think you are entering your username and password into a safe place but are in fact feeding them straight to the hacker.
All the above methods are just different ways of getting to the same thing: your data. Criminals want to get their hands on your login credentials, your credit card details, and your banking info. Here’s how you can avoid that and use public Wi‑Fi safely.
Avoid conducting sensitive activities over public Wi‑Fi. As a rule, remember that unless you’re connecting to an “https” site, anything you do over public Wi‑Fi is an easy target for snooping.
Set your device to forget previously used Wi‑Fi networks, or just turn Wi‑Fi off when you’re not using it. This will keep your device from automatically connecting to Wi‑Fi networks that you’ve previously used when you’re not aware. As mentioned, when logging on to a new network, verify that it’s one you can trust.
Use a VPN for full public Wi‑Fi security. A VPN will encrypt your connection end to end between your device and the VPN server, so your traffic can’t be spied on.
To encrypt all your traffic and keep you safe on public Wi‑Fi, a personal VPN such as F‑Secure VPN is the easiest, most secure, and most versatile solution. VPN guards your privacy online and makes your traffic very difficult to intercept on public Wi‑Fi. You can try it for free with no credit card required!