Is public Wi-Fi as safe as you think?
The West Midlands Cyber-crime Unit is warning the public to be more cyber savvy about using public Wi-Fi. There is a lot of reliance on using public Wi-Fi whilst we are constantly on the move. However there is a lack of awareness about cyber hacking and how cyber criminals use public Wi-Fi as a means to steal personal and financial details from individuals and businesses via public networks.
Attacking a public Wi-Fi network
One of the most common threats to public Wi-Fi is a ‘Man in the Middle Attack’; this is when a cyber-criminal joins a public Wi-Fi network and relies on the established connection to the victim’s machine to redirect the communication flows through the attackers host network. This allows the hacker to incept sensitive data such as important emails, credit card information and security credentials of the user’s business network.
Emailing and social networking are the top two things that people say they use public Wi-Fi for; however these two types of activity reveal a lot of personal information, making information available to potential cyber criminals. Online banking and downloading apps also makes people’s personal and financial information very vulnerable when using public Wi-Fi.
How to protect yourself whilst using Public Wi-Fi:
- Keep Wi-Fi turned off when out, as some public Wi-Fi’s can be configured so devices automatically connect as they are regarded as a ‘trusted’ hub.
- Exercise caution and verify the authenticity of the Wi-Fi network before logging onto it. For example, speak to an employee at the location that’s providing the public Wi-Fi connection, and ask for information about their legitimate Wi-Fi access point – such as the connection’s name and IP address.
- Use a trusted Virtual Private Network (VPN) service in order to secure your traffic. By using a VPN when you connect to a public Wi-Fi network, you’ll be encrypting all of your data that passes through the network. This means your data cannot be exploited by a hacker.
- Use mobile data services such as 4G in preference to public Wi-Fi, wherever possible.
- If you are concerned about the network, raise this with the organisation providing the public Wi-Fi service or contact Action Fraud.
- Don’t download applications to your electronic devices.
- Don’t install any updates to programmes on your computer.
- Avoid accessing your emails, social network accounts or online banking services.
- Don’t online shop and reveal financial details.
- Keep your device up to date with the latest manufacturers updates.
To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.