Why you should be careful using public wireless networks
Open public wireless networks are part of everyday life these days, you can’t go virtually anywhere where there’s not some sort of wireless network available. Whether this is hotels, airports, public transport etc. Your daily life is ruled upon the reliance of the availability of enough bandwidth to satisfy your social media needs.
Public free wireless networks can be convenient if you are using a mobile network that charges you a fortune for data, however if you connect to public wireless network, be aware that there can be a few gotchas, first and foremost choose your public wireless network wisely.
Before you start connecting to a public wireless network, it’s worth doing some quick research on the network that you are going to connect to before you go ahead and connect to any network that’s open and available to you, whether it’s familiar or not. For example, if you’re sitting in a coffee shop or public library, make sure that you verify the name of the network with a member of staff or check any signage that’s on show before connecting.
When you are connected to an unsecured public wireless network, it is easy for a malicious / third party to listen to and intercept all your data via a method called ‘Man in the Middle attack’. This attack is performed by the malicious person eavesdropping onto all the wireless traffic that is being sent to the access point whilst looking for any username or passwords.
How to stay safe whilst connected
If you need to connect to a public wireless network make sure to turn off file sharing and mark the wireless connection as a public network. You can find this option in the Control Panel -> Network and Sharing Center -> Change Advanced Sharing Settings. Under the Public heading, turn off the file sharing toggle. If you haven’t already, ensure that you turn on your firewall of choice to further protect your information.
If you can, don’t access any websites that require you to log in with your username and password, as anyone listening could potentially intercept this information for exploitation at a later date, if you need to, ensure you are connecting to a legitimate website and that you are on a secure website that is using HTTPS and has the padlock symbol in the address bar.
Probably one of the best ways to stay secure whilst connected to a public wireless network is to use a VPN connection. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a method of connecting an external device (your laptop) to a network (usually corporate) via the public network, in this case the wireless network. Once the VPN software / device has been configured corrected and establishes a connection all your information is secured and encrypted during communication making it harder for anyone to “sniff” your traffic.
These days all devices can use and support VPN connectivity speak to your corporate IT department for more information or do a search for VPN software for your Operating System of choice.
This goes without saying, but not only should you have your firewall enabled, and only browse websites that you know are trustworthy, but ensure that your anti-virus / spyware / malware program is fully up to date and is enabled. If you do happen to access a malicious webpage by accident, hopefully your endpoint security protect will step in and warn you.
I hope that this post is of some use to you and is a reminder to stay safe whilst out and about and that you found it of interest.