How your data security can be compromised on a public wi-fi network
There’s no doubt that most people need constant access to the internet. It’s embedded into almost every facet of our daily lives, as many tasks including work, banking, and personal communication involve the use of an app.
That’s why you’re probably on a constant look for a strong wi-fi signal, especially in crowded areas where a 3G or 4G connection can’t be found. In some instances, access to free wi-fi can feel like a lifesaver.
While stable access to the web is a huge convenience, it’s important to note that you avoid falling prey to malicious actors that are on the prowl. For these people, dense areas full of people searching for free wi-fi networks are a hunting ground.
One of the most common methods used to initiate data theft is called a Man in the Middle (MITM) attack.
To better understand what an MITM attack is, imagine that data from your computer is in a car driving through a road, a wifi network, in order to reach its destination, a server. To get your data, a malicious actor creates a detour on the road that looks exactly like the real road. While you are there, he scans your car as it passes by and copies this data, then loops your car back onto the original road.
While malicious actors can’t normally intercept anything that is encrypted, everything else that is transmitted is open to attack. This includes who you swipe left and right on while browsing Tinder!
So how can you protect yourself from MITM attacks? Here are a few tips:
- Refrain from using any unsecured wi-fi network. It doesn’t matter if it’s at a mall, a café, or the airport – you avoid any data security risks from an attack if they can’t reach you.
- If you must use a public network, especially in the absence of anti hacker protection, use a VPN. This, at the very least, helps encrypt your data.
- Even while on VPN, avoid doing any tasks that involve the input of sensitive information.
When it comes to accessing wi-fi networks, always remember ‘free’ does not equate to ‘safe’. Stay vigilant, as even large corporations have had missteps with their users' data security.