Public Wireless Internet (Wi-Fi) hotspots have become an
expected convenience at most coffee shops, bookstores, airports,
and numerous other public locations across the city. Consumers
perceive benefit in these locations because Wi-Fi enables them to
stay connected to social media, emails, and the internet while
on-the-go. More importantly, most of these hotspots are free. Who
doesn't like a "freebie"?
But, is connecting to public hotspots really free? Most people
often access hotspots without a second thought; but there are
dangers in using public internet connections that are frequently
These dangers put your personal information and digital identity
at risk. Data is easily intercepted when using an open connection,
and without a security and anti-malware product installed the risks
are even greater.
Cybercriminals use technology to spy on open networks and
intercept data interchanges. A hacker can be anyone with a Wi-Fi
enabled computer. What is more alarming is the ease with which
hackers can download free software to track your online activity
and the availability of such software.
Some common tactics employed by cybercriminals via public Wi-Fi
Man-in-the-middle attacks: A hacker injects
themselves between two communicators and intercepts or modifies the
Create fake Wi-Fi networks: An access point
set-up by a hacker may appear legitimate with a name very similar
to an authentic one to mislead unsuspecting users
Packet sniffing: Using readily available
tools, a hacker can sniff unencrypted traffic on the network and
Recommendations to consider for protecting your personal
Practice caution at all times when using a public hotspot and
treat all potential connections with suspicion
Confirm the Wi-Fi network identity with employees of the
Ensure an effective anti-malware and security product is on
every device, including your mobile device, and that it is
Begin URLs with HTTPS:// (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure)
rather than just HTTP:// to encode data interchanged between client
When visiting banking sites, ensure a padlock icon (indicates
target site is authenticated through public key encryption) appears
Avoid sharing sensitive material (corporate data, banking
information, passwords, etc.) over public Internet connections
When unavoidable, use a cellphone with a private data
connection for sensitive transactions (e.g. online shopping,
Erase cookies and browsing history after using a public
internet connection, or use incognito mode, if available, within
Use a variety of passwords for different profiles and make them
complex in nature
Change your passwords often, and especially after using a
public Wi-Fi connection
In the event your mobile device is hacked or you suspect it has
been compromised, consult a security professional. You may need to
delete the data and applications on your system or restore your
device to factory settings.
In order to avoid data loss, you should consider backing up your
system regularly. Implementing the guidelines above, will help to
keep your personal information safe.
About the Author
Daisy is a director with Crowe Horwath Global Risk Consulting.
She is responsible for leading technology oriented business risk
control reviews and managing internal audit outsourcing projects
for clients. Daisy also has significant experience in assisting her
clients in adopting the COBIT framework and meeting internal
controls certification requirements.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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