Public Wi-Fi is not as safe as you think
Authored by a Symantec employee
Sure, everybody has done it. At least once, but probably a lot more. Maybe daily. Maybe even hourly. But just because everybody else is connecting to the Internet via free public Wi-Fi doesn’t mean you should, too.
Instead, you should listen to that little voice in your head that asks, “Is this safe?” every time you connect to a public Wi-Fi network — because you know it really isn’t. You’re not alone. Open public Wi-Fi networks are everywhere: coffee shops, airports, restaurants, shopping malls. Public Wi-Fi is commonplace. And so are people’s concerns about their safety on unsecured open Wi-Fi hotspots, but like you they go ahead and connect anyway.
Here’s why you should stop using public Wi-Fi unless you also use a VPN, like Norton WiFi Privacy, which secures your private information on public Wi-Fi with encryption.
Using Wi-Fi on the daily?
Think about how often you’re online. For some of us, it’s always. And consider how much of that online time involves being on an unsecured Wi-Fi network because you’re out and about — and it’s available and you won’t max out your data plan.
Now think about what you do while you’re using public Wi-Fi hotspots — and compare yourself to what other people do on public Wi-Fi in the U.S., according to the Norton Wi-Fi Risk Report released in June 2016.
While on public Wi-Fi:
- 22% of respondents have accessed bank/financial information
- 56% of consumers have logged into their social media accounts
- 38% have shared photos or videos
- 58% of people have logged into a personal email account
All of these online daily habits, when conducted on public Wi-Fi or any unsecured Wi-Fi network, put your very private information at risk. All information on unsecured public Wi-Fi is easily viewed by others using the same network if they know the simple tricks that cybercriminals use to eavesdrop on whatever you do online.
Eavesdropping on public Wi-Fi
The most common threat to your personal information is when hackers use a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attack to eavesdrop on your data as it travels from point A (your device) to point B (a website).
A MitM attack is made possible when a hacker has access to an unsecured or poorly secured Wi-Fi router. The vulnerable Wi-Fi could be out in public or in someone’s home, as long as the hacker is within range of the Wi-Fi. The attacker uses special tools to scan the router looking for vulnerabilities such as default or weak passwords, or even security holes due to the router being set up without basic security. When the hacker finds a vulnerability, he then uses widely available tools to get in between points A and B to intercept any information — such as your bank account credentials, credit card numbers, or social media logins — that passes between the two.
Know your virtual private networks
The only guaranteed ways to avoid becoming a victim of a MitM attack are to stay off public Wi-Fi completely or to use a VPN. These virtual networks encrypt, or make private, the information that passes into or out of your device while you’re using Wi-Fi.
VPNs may seem like the perfect solution to avoid the danger of having your credentials stolen on Wi-Fi. And they can be, but only if you know that they exist.
According to the 2016 Norton Cyber Security Insights Report, 49% of people in the U.S. never use a VPN when they connect to public Wi-Fi. Yet the fact that more than half of survey respondents (57%) believe they are likely to have their identity stolen after entering information on public Wi-Fi begs the question of why more people don’t use VPNs routinely. Lack of awareness could be a key factor. If cost is also an issue, people will need to weigh the risk of having their identity stolen against their desire to protect their private information on public Wi-Fi.
Meet Norton WiFi Privacy for multiple devices, Macs and PCs
In 2016 the Norton WiFi Privacy VPN app launched on Google Play and Apple App Store, providing protection for smartphone and tablet users on public Wi-Fi. The new version of Norton WiFi Privacy now provides the same security for PC and Mac computer users, by encrypting all of the information that you send and receive when you connect to the Internet on public Wi-Fi. Learn more about how Norton WiFi Privacy can protect your multiple devices on unsecured Wi-Fi — and silence that little voice in your head that asks, “Is this public Wi-Fi safe?” With Norton WiFi Privacy it will be safe, and you’ll keep your sensitive information private on public Wi-Fi.
Disclaimers and references:
Symantec Corporation, the world’s leading cyber security company, allows organizations, governments, and people to secure their most important data wherever it lives. More than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock comprehensive digital safety platform to help protect their personal information, devices, home networks, and identities.
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