Using public wifi without a VPN ? Be prepared to be hacked.
Free public WiFi seems like the best thing since sliced bread.
Free, easy to use, decent speed, unlimited browsing.
What’s not to love?
A lot, actually. So let’s get started.
Free public WiFi hotspots can be a trap. They are open, unsecured and relatively easy to hack. They open up a whole new world of possibilities for hackers to invade your privacy, collect your personal and financial data, or even break into your device.
There are over 100 Million public wifi hotspots available to us, but a staggering 89% of these are not secure.
So what ?
All the traffic within a public WiFi network is usually unsecured, meaning it does not use proper encryption to protect your internet data. Your sensitive information sent via an unsecured WiFi network (such as credit card numbers, passwords, chat messages) becomes an easy target for hackers.
When it comes to stealing your data, hackers get quite creative. One of the ways they attack is called man-in-the-middle (MITM). Cybercriminals will create their fake public network. In most cases, the name will be similar to the name of the place with access to a public network (like a restaurant or hotel) nearby. Then, hackers will snoop on your private information and target data on your devices.
On top of that, hackers can install packet sniffing software. It is particularly dangerous because it records massive amounts of data which later can be processed on their demand.
A recent ‘ethical hacking’ demonstration, a 7 year girl took 10 minutes 58 seconds to set up a rogue network on public wifi, and begin to intercept personal data from users on the same network.
How do hackers exploit public wifi
Here are just a few of the ways that you can be hacked.
Evil Twin attack
In an Evil Twin attack, cybercriminals create a fake network with a name that is very similar to the actual legitimate wifi name. For example, if a coffee shop provides a wireless guest network named “CoffeeShop_Guest,” hackers will create a similar network of their own and call it “CoffeeShop_FREE.” Once connected to the evil twin, all your network traffic becomes visible to the hacker behind it.
In MITM attacks, hackers spy on your browsing activity, waiting for the perfect time to strike. To put it simply, the cybercriminal stands between your device and a website or service you are trying to access. From there, the hackers have the ability to intercept and alter all your communications and access sensitive information like banking credentials, passwords, cryptocurrency wallets, and even your private messages from auntie Doris begging you to stop sending her invites to play Candy Crush.
A malware attack is especially nasty and can occur when cybercriminals inject malware into unprotected WiFi hotspots and compromise your internet traffic. These attacks are extremely difficult to detect and a real pain to get rid of. On an unsecured WiFi network, malicious code can slip into your device at any time – when shopping for a new wine rack, or just browsing the Gram while sipping your morning avocado iced coffee.
Cookie side-jacking is one of the oldest forms of cyber-attack. When you are connected to an unsecured public WiFi, hackers can get their hands on your cookies. The same cookies that store your login details on your computer so you don’t have to enter your username and password every time you open a website. And stealing this information is easier than you think.
While most people are usually familiar with viruses, not many people have heard of worms. The difference between the two is that the viruses require you to download a file, while worms can infiltrate your device, even if you don’t visit any shady sites. If a Wi-Fi network lacks proper security, worms can easily find their way to you and can compromise your data.
With the help of pretty basic software, which is simple enough to use and legal to get, hackers can spy on your online activities, see your login information, steal your passwords and break into your online accounts if you’re browsing on an unsecured network. Somehow even creepier than sniffing stranger’s hair in public, and that’s a pretty low bar to set.
In 2017 Belgian researchers discovered that WPA2 protocol used by the vast majority of WiFi networks is unsafe.
According to the report, the WPA2 protocol can be broken using novel attacks potentially exposing personal data.
The vulnerability can affect a broad range of operating systems and devices – including Android, Apple, Windows, Linux, OpenBSD, MediaTek, etc. Basically, if you have a device that connects to WiFi, it can be affected. The situation is a little different in the European Union since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect. ISPs processing Europeans’ data must be compliant to the GDPR. They have to make sure they store personal data only with the consent and when it’s not linkable to an individual.
So how do I stay safe on public wifi
Using a VPN is the only way to be certain that you cannot be hacked while using public wifi. Think of it as a condom for your data.
Vanished VPN is one of the best value VPNs in the world, and we consistently out perform our competitors in terms of speed. We have apps for your devices, and easy setup guides.
Check out our great value plans today , and wave goodbye to hacking worries.