To describe free Wi-Fi in the simplest terms, unsecured and therefore dangerous.

Public or free Wi-Fi is synonymous to everyone going for their mobile devices like gunslingers and with quick fingers logging in and pigging out on the free access. But it also means that all these devices will be exposed to open dangers of hacking and intrusions.

In reality, by itself, a wireless access point (WAP) or wireless network connection is not dangerous per se. It becomes so if it’s left unsecured, which means it has no security protection and no encryption. “Secured” Wi-Fi hotspots in places like restaurants and hotels are somewhat okay because a password is needed for access. In the absence of a password, danger lurks at every corner for unsecured Wi-Fi. Hackers and cyber-criminals now have at their disposal endless possibilities on unsecured public Wi-Fi.

Getting your login credentials

Hackers nearby can eavesdrop on your connection to gather useful information from your activities. Data transmitted in unencrypted form such as plain text can be intercepted and read by hackers with the correct knowledge and equipment. This includes data from any services that require a login protocol. It becomes worse when visiting banking or financial websites using unsecured Wi-Fi, and that’s a lot of login credentials just ripe for the picking. Cyber-criminals can use captured login information directly in order to gain access to your personal accounts, or indirectly by selling credentials to third parties, wider scale identity thieves, etc.

Interception of any useful general data

Clear text transmission of data over unsecured Wi-Fi leaves other kinds of information open to interception, modification, and theft. This would include corporate data, intellectual property, images, media files, and the content of unencrypted e-mail or instant messages.

Spreading viruses and malware

Unprotected users linked to the same unprotected network enable cyber-criminals to easily distribute malicious malware and viruses. It’s a great way for them to lay the groundwork for a botnet of devices prior to staging a Denial of Service (DoS) or Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on a targeted website or network. Being able to relay malicious software to several victims in one sitting is also a fine opportunity for the distribution of ransomware.

Stealing bandwidth

Users of unsecured wireless networks should be aware that they’re not safe from the attentions of malicious outsiders. Naturally, anyone who gains knowledge of an unsecured public Wi-Fi network and is close enough to connect may “piggyback” on the hotspot for their own personal purpose and gain. On the sinister level, multiple sign-ons from unauthorized visitors could potentially overload the system by exceeding bandwidth limitations or the capabilities of network hardware, in the form of a DoS attack.

Always stay protected

When connecting, be sure to select the “Public network” Wi-Fi option in Windows and not the Home network or Work network options. The Public network option locks down the connection, ensuring Windows isn’t sharing any files or other sensitive data with others on the local network.

It’s also important to be up-to-date on security patches and have the firewall enabled like the one built into Windows.


This entry was posted by Staff Writer on Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 6:15:14 AM and is filed under Tech Tips & Tricks.

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