Wi-Fi Wisdom

You’ve decided to take a break from your work-from-home scenario and head down to your favorite coffee shop for an afternoon refreshment and to continue working on your monthly budget. Are you sure the shop’s Wi-Fi is safe to use? While public wi-fi is convenient, there are risks associated with using those networks, which could make you a victim of a cyber-attack.

Some examples of attacks include:

  • Imagine sending a text to a friend, and someone secretly reads and maybe even changes your message before it reaches them. You and your friend think it's a private chat, but this sneaky person is seeing and altering everything you say. That's what a 'man-in-the-middle' attack is like – it's as if someone is eavesdropping and changing your private conversations without you knowing!
  • Often, public networks are unencrypted. That means there is no “secret code” to keep the information private, so all information that is shared on it can be seen or captured by anyone with the correct tools. As such, it is much easier for a hacker to get to your data and use it.
  • A malicious hotspot is created to trick you into thinking you are connecting to a legitimate network. For instance, you may think you are logging into Truist Bank and you click on the Wi-Fi that says “truistbank”. You may think that is correct, but its not! The lower case “t” is not included in the official login for the bank, so you have connected to a malicious hotspot.

So, you may now be wondering “how can I possibly know if my Wi-Fi spot is safe?” There is always some risk, but you can protect yourself and your information. Here are a few tips:

  • Be careful about accessing sensitive information. Choosing a new coffee to pick up is ok, but maybe wait until you are home to pay your mortgage!
  • Use a virtual private network (VPN) which gives you a private “portal” through which you can send your information.
  • Make sure a website has “HTTPS” and an image of a lock before the domain name (www…) as the “S” ensures the website is secured using encryption.
  • As much as we like the convenience of “automatically connect”, its better to look at the connection first to make sure it appears legitimate. And remember to forget; “forget network” that is, for extra security.
  • Use two-factor authentication on all your important services! If the hacker doesn’t have your password, your account will be safe.

So, the next time you are heading down to your nearest coffee shop, airport, or any other public location, please keep these in mind! Whether for work or pleasure, internet safety is crucial in all facets of our lives!