People need to be aware that Public Wi-Fi is inherently insecure so if you’re using it you really do need to be cautious. Even if you’re in a busy public area or coffee shop you can’t just think that every Wi-Fi link is legitimate.
Hackers know this and place bogus Wi-Fi links that try to capture valuable, personal information from unsuspecting users. We recommend never connecting to an unknown or unrecognised wireless access point.
But what if I’m shopping online or need to access my online banking, should I use public Wi-Fi I hear you ask?
The answer is yes, you can, but we recommend in this scenario using a mobile phone data connection, network providers encrypt data so it’s far more secure than using free Wi-Fi hotspots.
So for general browsing? Yes use Wi-Fi, but for accessing secure information or inputting credit card details we recommend switching to 3G or 4G. If you’re in a strong signal area this can often be just as fast, if not faster than the free Wi-Fi on offer.
We spoke to Sam Murray, blog editor at www.cheapcontractphones.org.uk who is big on educating customers about mobile security:
Public Wi-Fi is great, it’s convenient, but convenience and security sadly don’t go hand in hand. When you’re on a public wifi spot, you instantly become vulnerable, a hacker can intercept your data while in transit. Or remotely exploit your laptop / phone if it is running a vulnerable service, or the attacker has a zero-day exploit. With mobile data connections those threats are removed. Network providers encrypt data between the cell phone towers and your device. It’s much harder for something like this to be exploited.
In a nutshell if you do any of the following via public wifi:
- Check your e-mail in a public wifi hotspot
- Login to social networking websites in a public wifi hotspot
- Login to bank accounts in a public wifi hotspot
- Share sensitive data online while in a public wifi hotspot
- Wish to secure your connection from prying eyes in a public wifi hotspot
- Use the internet at a library.
- Use the internet at a cafe, bookstore or hotel.
- Use the internet at an airport.
We recommend using mobile data instead. It’s much safer.
And if you have a modern smartphone running on the likes of Apple’s iOS, Android or Windows Phone there are a range of apps that can secure your phone even further. We’ll be exploring these apps in an upcoming blog post. Stay tuned.