How to keep safe from HACKING and SPOOFING on a PUBLIC WIFI

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We all like free WIFI, say at a coffee shop, or maybe when we are off for lunch at a restaurant. There is a lot in our daily life we could do with this free WIFI available almost everywhere and in every food shop, we got to. For instance, you could want to check on your social networks, make an update, check on the latest news as it breaks in, check your bank balance or make online calls. All this is so good when it’s all free and you are not concerned about how much data bundles you may be left with. However, we must be careful all the time while we access and use public internet as much as we enjoy it. There is a lot of trouble gotten out of such free internet access and below, I will show you just a few of them, of course, we cannot exhaust them in a single row.

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The risks of free Wi-Fi

Using public WIFI is a little more like having a conversation in a public place, around and near other people, those you know and strangers. What do you expect from that? Of course, they will overhear your conversation. In this case, if you don’t take precautions, information your devices send over a public Wi-Fi network goes out in clear text and anyone else on the network could easily take a look at what you’re doing with just a few simple software tools. If there is anyone spying on you, he/she could easily pick up your passwords or other private information. If you use the same password on multiple sites, that could be a big problem. This is the biggest concern with public hotspots.

Another potential risk in using public WIFI is honeypot. Someone else with an intention of spoofing and Hacking your information may set up a fake WIFI connection with the same name as the one you usually connect to with the temptation to grab up any data you send. These are easy to set up without any kind of special equipment; it could be done just using a laptop or Smartphone so that you could run into them anywhere. This is a common trick which hackers use and news about the same pop up frequent times a year.

Lastly, once you are using public Wi-Fi, you are at a high risk for session hijacking, in which a hacker who’s monitoring your Wi-Fi traffic attempts to take over an open session you have with an online service such as a social media site or an email client by stealing the browser cookies the service uses to recognize who you are. Once hackers have that cookie, they can pretend to be you on these sites or even find your login and password information stored inside the cookie.

How to stay safe on public Wi-Fi

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1. Know your network

Since Hackers are everywhere waiting on for any mistake you do, then you should be super careful and know the networks you connect to. Before you connect to a network, be sure you know whose network you’re connecting to so you don’t fall prey to Wi-Fi honeypots. If you’re not sure what the public network at a business is called, ask an employee before connecting. And check to make sure your computer or Smartphone is not set up to automatically connect to an unknown Wi-Fi.

2. Use a secure connection of HTTPS

Be sure that the websites you are connecting to use a secure connection via HTTPS, which is capable of encrypting anything you send and receive from the website. While a VPN service encrypts everything you send, HTTPS ensures that communication to and from a particular website is secure. To verify if you’re connected via HTTPS, look at the address bar of your browser window; you should see “HTTPS” at the beginning of the web address. It’s also advisable to type the URL in yourself than just clicking on a link you receive in an email, it may be a trick.

3. Use a VPN

Using VPN service helps to encrypt all information you handle within the time you are connected, anyone trying to steal your data will see only encrypted data, even if you’re connecting to sites using HTTP. There are many services that can do this, for example, in Uganda many citizens know what VPN means and at least everyone has ever used it due to a saga that the country faced. VPN services charge a fee for their use, with pay packages ranging from day passes to year-round protection; however, some VPNs are as well free of charge. Keep in mind, services like Netflix, bank applications, Amazon, and Jumia may not let you connect if you’re using a VPN service.

4. Use a two-factor authentication

For every confidential login either to your banking application account or email, make sure you are using a two-factor authentication, which requires both a password and a secondary code that changes regularly, for websites. This makes it very difficult for hackers to get at your accounts because even if they can get your password, they won’t have the secondary code. However, not all sites over this level of authentication security.

5. Disable file sharing

Never configure your computer to share access to files or be seen on public or guest networks. When you’re at home, it may be convenient to keep things in a folder you share with other members of the household, but that’s less safe when you’re connecting to public Wi-Fi. It’s dangerous when someone who is not authorized gets access to such confidential folders and if it is possible, sticks to as few public Wi-Fi networks. In a new city, connect to Wi-Fi in a store or coffee shop you’ve used before, for example. The more networks you sign up to, the more likely the chances that you’ll stumble across one that isn’t treating your data and browsing as carefully as it should be.

6. Don’t Give Away Too Much Info

You must be vigilant on signing up for public Wi-Fi access if you’re getting asked for a bunch of personal details, like your email address or your phone number. If you absolutely have to connect to networks like this, stick to places you trust instead of such malicious connections, and consider using an alternative email address that isn’t your primary one.

Stores and restaurants that do this want to be able to recognize you across multiple Wi-Fi hotspots and tailor their marketing accordingly, so it’s up to you to decide whether the trade-off is worth it for some free internet access.

7. Check what you’re signing Up For

We know we’re probably saying this in vain, but read up on the attached terms and conditions before you connect yourself to a public Wi-Fi connection. You might not always understand every word, but you should be able to spot any major red flags, particularly around what kind of data they’re collecting from your session, and what they’re doing with it.

If you find the associated policies really impenetrable, a quick web search should bring up any known issues or problems that other users have been having. Of course there’s nothing inherently evil about terms and conditions they help protect the Wi-Fi provider too but don’t just blindly click through on whatever pop-up screens you’re presented with. And if they ask you to install any extra software or browser extensions, back away quickly.

8. Avoid downloads and installations

In the next few years, as the next-generation WPA3 Wi-Fi security protocol comes online, public Wi-Fi will have more built-in protections. Until then, many security exploits rely on old, outdated software, so make sure you’re running all the latest patches and software updates on your laptop or phone before venturing out. Also, don’t download or install anything new over public Wi-Fi unless you absolutely have to.

And again, best way to avoid running into security problems due to public Wi-Fi is not to use it at all—think about downloading videos and music for offline access before you leave home, for instance, or using your Smartphone hotspot function instead. If you are going to get connected though, the steps mentioned above should maximize your chances of staying out of trouble.

9. Constant Vigilance

It might seem obvious to some, but you have to err on the side of caution when browsing the internet. Never let your curiosity get the best of you. In your browser, block cookies and remove tracking. Avoid unsafe or untrusted software (especially if it’s free or sounds too good to be true), and avoid dodgy links in your inbox, or on your social media feeds.

10. Tether Your Internet Connection

If you have a remarkable data plan, you can tether off your mobile device or phone. Since this is a private connection, it’ll be much more difficult and less rewarding, for a hacker to break into.

Of course, this can be a bit pricey depending on where you live. It might also tax your phone’s battery, so use with your own power supply.