PUBLIC WIFI - IS IT SAFE?
It must be articulated with a smile that the upside here is that the data speak well of modern connected humans. It is touching that people in general are so trusting.
However, recent research shows that many people think they are not responsible for their personal security online. They believe that the public wifi provider is responsible or the sites they visit provide security because they have passwords.
Millennials having grown up online expect seamless connectivity at all times. Surprisingly they do not think twice about automatically joining the nearest available network without considering personal security matters.
Hyper connectivity is a marvellous thing. Unavoidable waits can be turned into productivity time to increase leisure time when it is available. Being able to be online all the time is possible thanks to public wifi networks. Airports, buses, an increasing number of public spaces and probably every cafe in the western world by now supplies free wifi.
What are the risks of using public wifi and what can you do to protect yourself, your personal data and communications from ill intent?
When using a public network all the information that winds its way between servers is available to third party criminal types. Information travelling at light speed is no defense against technology in the hands of people who want to do you harm. Your most primary defense against being vulnerable is to never share sensitive information on public networks.
Turn off automatic sharing and any live feed apps. Automatic wifi connection should be disabled and only enabled on demand.
Bank details, social network and email passwords, personal details and digital signatures are best left in an encrypted file on your computer or even on an external drive. Never let out for use unless at home on your own network.
The three most common methods of hacking public networks involve the nasty third party hijacking the information flow between you and the web. Hardware, software and apps are **commercially available that can let anybody pirate all communications on public networks. Please be careful.
**commercially available - https://www.wifipineapple.com
MAN IN THE MIDDLE
It is just what it seems. A malicious third party sets up their own network that stands in between your computer and what you are accessing on the web.
They can observe all your online activity. It doesn't matter if the sites you are visiting are encrypted or using HTTPS. If the information itself isn't encrypted the cables become transparent and your information is there for the viewing.
SNIFF SNIFF SNIFF
Wifi sniffing is surprisingly legal and involves attackers monitoring network traffic. They record huge data packets and using sophisticated algorithms, analyze and find patterns that may provide useful details.
Malware is particularly nasty. It can hide inside your device doing no discernible damage, these are not like viruses. Malware can give an attacker complete access to all of the functions on your device. Access personal files and photos, turn microphones and cameras on and off and most frightening, know what all your passwords and social network identities are.
These malicious programs can be downloaded into your device over public networks if you access cloud services that require passwords for example. The attacker accesses your cloud account and you don't even know you have been infected until the horror of identity theft rears its ugly head.
There are precautions you can take to improve your security and protect your personal data. The most sophisticated hacker will not be able to penetrate some simply set up encryption safeguards on your device.
USE SSL CONNECTIONS
**SSL is the primary source of encryption available if you cannot get access to a VPN. When you visit a website always enable the HTTPS option. Especially on sites that require some kinds of credentials.
Remembering to have unique passwords for your important web sites can help fool attackers. Repeated passwords can be mined as patterns in data by smart hackers whether using HTTPS or not. Don't be caught out by having your social media, favourite online store, bank account and credit card management passwords all the same.
Joining a VPN is a precaution that needs to become habit if you frequent public wifi services. VPN or Virtual Private Network is a service that allows you to go about your business on public networks protected by encryption.
Often encryption is done by multiplying very large prime numbers together. Numbers so large they are impossible to calculate without keys. These ciphers would even baffle all the computing power on earth if it were networked together. Encryption requires decryption keys that are only known by you and the **VPN service onto which you log. Protected by complex mathematics all your information from router to the net and back will be private.
There are a number of VPN services that can be free, inexpensive or expensive. Free might not actually mean free and there may be hidden costs of other kinds. Check out the provider's business plan before making a decision. They may not cost you any money, but they may sell on your information to data collecting services which is a cost in itself and maybe one you would rather avoid.
BE EXTRA SAFE WITH PGP
You can screw the lid down tight on all your personal security needs with **PGP. Pretty Good Privacy is an internet standard called openPGP and is used for data encryption and digital signatures. PGP allows secure transmission of data across any network.
Using mindbogglingly sophisticated mathematics one time session keys are generated to encrypt your plaintext into indecipherable gibberish. A public key, so that anybody even people you have not met can encrypt data to you, is created. Simultaneously a private key, that only you know for decrypting and reading the data on your device, is also generated.
PGP is standard in **onionland where encryption guarantees sovereignty in a lawless virtual pantopia and Bitcoin would not function without it.
SO IS PUBLIC WIFI SAFE?
Public WiFi is as safe as you make it. It is certainly vulnerable to compromise. Therefore, if unprotected, you are vulnerable to compromise as well.
Taking simple precautions can increase your safety on public networks.
Let encryption be your friend for life. It is a big leap of faith to put your safety in the hands of numbers, but if you do you will be as secure as a government or big corporation.