Checking your bank balance, you respond with a string of appropriate emojis. Snapping a photo of you finishing your drink, tagging it with your favorite frappuccino place in the city, and heading off to work.
You don’t know it, but you just sold your soul to the devil. Or at least invited him to feast upon all the personal information he could ever ask for. By hopping onto that public network, you opened a door that could let in the biggest, ugliest invader ever: hackers. Are public Wi-Fis safe? Here’s the answer, but you probably aren’t going to like it.
Public Wi-Fi Networks, a Public Disservice
While restaurants, coffee shops, and stores think they are doing the public a favor by offering customers an open Wi-Fi channel, these streams of Internet connection are actually doing a lot more harm than good.
That’s because if the network isn’t protected, which most are not, hackers can just piggyback onto these channels, and connect to anyone who is using the network at that time. This gives them access to all information being transferred through that connection in a frightening way. Here’s what’s most alarming about these public Wi-Fi hackers:
- Anyone can do it: Wi-Fi jacking is not a skilled action. In fact, any kid with a computer can hack into a network and start cleaning up.
- Hackers can record anything on these networks, and no password means no encryption: Once inside, the hacker has carte blanche to anything that’s passing through the network. And none of it is encrypted. So any information you type or transmit can be read clearly by anyone who is tapped in. From the above conversation, a hacker knows your credit card number, bank account pin code, birthday, and where you like to frequent for your caffeine fix. That’s a lot of damning data in the wrong hands.
So what’s a body to do if she has to get online while at Starbucks? If it simply cannot wait, then make use of a virtual private network. VPNs are the answer to any online security threat, whether you’re looking for privacy, security, or just discretion. Services like Hide.me and PureVPN will let you travel through the World Wide Web undetected, or at least unrecognizable. So even if people can see that someone is surfing, they can’t see it’s you, and they can’t read whatever you’re writing.
More Pro Tips to Live By
Here are several more ways to make sure you stay safe when surfing public Wi-Fi:
- HTTP or HTTPS? Look for the S at the end of a website’s HTTP string. This stands for secure, and it’ll show you which sites are safe and which are standing unprotected.
- When using a public WiFi network, don’t go anywhere you wouldn’t want a hacker to see (or your mother for that matter!) This will ensure that no one can grab your personal info.
- Once again, use a VPN to stay cloaked.
Bottom line, stay away from public Wi-Fi networks unless you’re using a suitable VPN that will protect your web activity from hackers, the government, and your spouse.