It’s a common site; you walk into a coffee shop and see multiple people with their laptops and tablets out, typing away with their drinks and snacks close at hand. It’s nice to be able to work outside the office and thanks to many establishments offering free Wi-Fi, people can work in a relaxed atmosphere while generating business for the establishment offering the internet hook-up.
Seems like a good plan, right? No, not really.
While free Wi-Fi is great for the budget and gives options for getting work done, it can also lead to computer crime.
One major concern when using free Wi-Fi is security. Most places that offer free Wi-Fi can’t or won’t control who uses it. It needs to be easy to access for patrons and hard to crack for hackers. The problem is, many “hackers” are also patrons. And those who aren’t, have no problem cracking public Wi-Fi security to steal information and cause chaos.
At home, personal encryption, antivirus, and firewalls for your router will generally keep you safe from spying and hacking. With so many homes with Wi-Fi, the chances of an outside cybercriminal specifically targeting your system from the outside is minimal.
Since public Wi-Fi is exactly that, public, anyone can get on the network. Different schemes like MiM attacks can easily control correspondence between devices. Just think of that if you’re trying to work with your bank over lunch.
Other cybercrimes like cloning (or diverting your traffic to a cloned site to extract information) and password theft are all too easy when public Wi-Fi is used.
If you just must use public Wi-Fi, there are ways to protect yourself from cybercrime.
First, be picky about where you use. Restricted networks or partially free Wi-Fi are usually safer than full-free sites.
Keep your Wi-Fi off when you aren’t using it and once you get to a trusted network or at home, be sure to change passwords.
Also, keep your antivirus up to date and frequently run scans for malicious activity.
If you do find yourself at the mercy of cybercriminals, don’t fret. Contact the Department of Justice. Their website has a contact page where you can report incidents. Let them know what happened. Also, many police departments will know a reputable computer forensics company you can work with to get more detailed help.