What Are Public WiFi Hotspots?

What happens if you connect to one of the risky public WiFi hotspots available all over the world? And, what if you do this without any protection features on your devices? As it turns out, catastrophic things can occur. The issue is that millions of people are connecting to public WiFi hotspots right now as we speak. Millions of people are traveling, working, and doing leisure activities that require a constant internet connection. Combine this with the fact that there are over 30 billion registered devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops buzzing out there right now, and you get public WiFi hotspots that present a major cybersecurity risk to the entire community. This means that not only can a public WiFi hotspot risk one device alone, but a domino effect can lead to unimaginable consequences such as the compromise of entire networks (even entire organizations). 

Fortunately, there are some actions we can take to immediately remediate future catastrophes. Thanks to advancements in technology, tools, and knowledge previously reserved exclusively for experts are available to the general public. This involves using premium cybersecurity software as well as broadening one’s knowledge of cybersecurity awareness and internet best practices. Let’s get into it!

What is a Public WiFi Hotspot?

We all know what a WiFi hotspot is, or at least those of us that have used the internet do (which is about five out of eight billion people on this planet). As such, most of us have probably connected to a public WiFi hotspot at one point or another in our lives. These hotspots are everywhere now and pretty much every organization, institution, or business — whether that be a restaurant, hotel, coffee shop, or airport — will have public WiFi hotspots available. 

Now, what differentiates a public WiFi hotspot from a personal hotspot? Well, it’s pretty self-explanatory. A personal WiFi hotspot is like the WiFi connection you have at home or your mobile hotspot. This is a hotspot that you use and set the password for. It is also operated via a router or mobile hotspot owned by you. A public WiFi hotspot, on the other hand, is usually open to everyone, hence why it has ‘public’ in the name. Sometimes these public hotspots can be connected to directly, or sometimes require a user to register their details in order to connect. Public hotspots can be municipal or belong to a business. If you’ve ever connected to, say, the internet at a library, airport, or train station — you’ve connected to a public WiFi hotspot. 

Now, let’s hope you’ve done this with the proper security features and knowledge in tow, otherwise you may have just risked all of the data on your device and possibly your accounts such as your bank account.

What Are The Dangers of Connecting to a WiFi Hotspot Without Protection?

How is a public WiFi hotspot dangerous, you may ask? Well, a public WiFi hotspot is just as dangerous as leaving your belongings unattended at a public beach which is something you surely would think twice about. Connecting to such a hotspot unprotected is asking for trouble. Why, then, do we not value the security of our devices in the same way? Simply because most of us are unaware or do not pay attention to a little thing called cybersecurity. Cybersecurity can be defined as the protection of digital devices, and connected devices, employing safe internet browsing practices, and above all the safeguarding of sensitive data.

The issue at hand is that anytime a wireless internet connection is public, it can be interfered with by hackers (cyber criminals). What else can happen? Take a look:

  • MiTM attacks
  • Network snooping
  • Malware distribution
  • Rigged hotspots

What can this lead to?

  • Stolen usernames and passwords
  • Malware loaded onto your devices (keyloggers, stealers, ransomware)
  • Espionage of your entire internet traffic
  • Several types of scams such as email phishing campaigns

If your device has zero protection measures installed, and if you blindly trust public hotspots, you may be susceptible to all of the above. Worse still, the WiFi hotspot you are connected to might be a rigged hotspot pretending to be legitimate. Hackers can do a good job of web design these days, so you may not even notice the hotspot you’ve connected to is fake.

What is more, your connection can be intercepted with a range of MiTM (Man in The Middle) attacks, network snooping (espionage), and more. You could have your devices infected with malware (malicious software) simply by connecting to such a hotspot. 

Perhaps worst of all is the compromise or theft of your credentials. Imagine you sat in a coffee shop to do your daily work, and you connected to a malicious hotspot. You then decided to check your bank account or your social media and entered your username and password via that hotspot. Now, your network has been intercepted (or snooped) and you’ve just given over your sensitive credentials to hackers.

Always Use a Premium VPN and Premium Antimalware 

What do you do to stop these kinds of risks and intrusions on your data and your internet connection? You must use premium virtual private network (VPN) software. With this software, you can safely connect to any hotspot without fear of any hacking taking place. This is because this cybersecurity software will encrypt your internet connection and will make any snooping impossible. As for malicious software being downloaded, use premium antimalware software that can immediately detect dangers on your devices. A combination of these two will surely stop most of the above risks.

At the end of the day, it is also up to you to not browse risky websites and open dangerous emails that can lead to phishing scams where your credentials can be compromised via a fraudulent website. Apart from just using cybersecurity tools, you must use common sense and realize that internet best practices and a careful approach to the internet jungle are a must in order to protect all of your precious data.

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