WiFi connections can be found just about anywhere in today’s world. However, just because we take a good WiFi connection for granted doesn’t mean you can take your security and privacy for granted as well.
As more and more people access WiFi connections over smartphones and other internet-connected devices, hackers have realized that public WiFi locations are swarming with potential targets. Sure, there may not be a hacker lying in wait at your local McDonald’s every day, but there are some places where you should think twice before accessing private information over a public WiFi connection.
What do I mean when I say to ‘be careful’ when using a public WiFi connection? Avoid using your bank’s website and make sure you’re always connected to websites with an HTTPS connection if you’re transmitting data.
Here are the top 5 places to be careful of using an unprotected WiFi connection
5) Fast food restaurants
More and more fast food restaurants are offering free WiFi. It’s one of the biggest reasons I stop at McDonald’s and Starbucks while traveling (okay, I love a greasy burger too). However, fast food restaurants tend to operate wireless networks with nonexistent security, leaving guests totally unprotected if someone wants to monitor the network.
4) Your neighbor’s public WiFi
You just moved into a new apartment building. You’re about to call a local ISP to hook up your connection when you realize that your silly neighbor didn’t put a password on his WiFi. Nice!
Unfortunately, in large apartment buildings, you never know who your neighbor may be. Is your neighbor a kind old lady who just didn’t know how to put a password on her wireless network? Or is it an Al Qaeda cyberterrorist looking to steal the personal information of an entire apartment building by luring them into connecting to a free network. You should probably get your own internet connection.
3) In-flight WiFi
When you’re on a plane, you may think your internet connection is totally secure. After all, you went through all that security at the airport – how could you be in any danger from hackers in the air?
Well, the unfortunate truth is that most airlines use an inflight Wi-Fi service called Gogo which offers no encryption. This means hackers can easily monitor your login information. To make matters worse, your information may still be accessible after you’ve left the airplane because the Gogo network saves your data.
2) Schools and libraries
Long-heralded as places of public learning, schools and libraries also pose a significant security risk. Why? Well, if you go to your local library or school, you may notice that the WiFi network is wide open. This isn’t always the case, but more often than not, anybody is free to connect to these public wireless networks, and you can’t just assume that these networks are encrypted.
Most hotels make it easy to access the WiFi network. Unless you’re in one of those fancy hotels that charges $20 per night for WiFi access, your hotel may simply have an open public wireless network available to all hotel guests. Whether the hotel network is wide open or password protected, cookies from your browsing activity will remain on the hotel’s network after you leave – don’t take your privacy for granted.