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Almost everywhere you go has wireless connections today. Whether it is to the grocery store, restaurant, movies, or someone’s home. Most people have been told the dangers of public wireless networks, but many people ignore this risk. It makes you wonder what the risks actually are though.
Public networks are typically unsecured. They don’t require a password and anyone can access them. This means hackers have such an easy way to connect to your devices. “Wireless networks are even more susceptible to hacking than wired networks because the signals of most wireless networks extend beyond the walls of your home. Neighbors may unintentionally (or intentionally) connect to the Internet through your wireless connection and hackers may try to access it” (Micro B Life, 2022). Whether it is intentional or not, your data can be easily accessed.
You can protect yourself though. If, and I still don’t recommend it, you decide to connect to unsecure networks, you can utilize some common practices to protect your data. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) “is the most secure option to surf on public networks” (Micro B Life, 2022). Another common practice is to turn off network sharing and auto connect. This will prevent your device from inadvertently connecting to the network and giving out your information. “File sharing is usually pretty easy to turn off from the system preferences or control panel, depending on your operating system” (Baig, 2018).
Personally, I use my own wireless “hot spot” when I need to conduct work away from work or home. My own wireless connection is password protected, prohibits any devices that I do not allow from connecting, and has a password to access the device itself. I also like to utilize the practice of a VPN and keep my cameras covered as an added precaution. The military taught me a lot of vulnerabilities!
I used to think that laptops were more secure than phones when connecting to wireless networks due to the amount of information we keep on them. Oh how wrong I was! Smartphones really are smart and have built in safety features to help the end user. “Unlike on PCs, each app on your smartphone creates a separate user. That means that if an app infects one user, it can’t infect anybody else’s phone unless that person gives the app permission” (PSafe, 2017). This means that if an app tries to infect your device, it will only infect that one device and not everyone who downloaded the app. Additionally, it still will not be able to gain information from your other apps, as they only allow certain permissions as well. This is perfect for those that keep a lot of information in their apps.
Some ways you can protect yourself is to use different passwords for each app or account. This will prevent a hacker from being able to access everything with one password. As someone who has had to change almost every password due to this, it is well worth it. Luckily, nothing vital was taken and my sensitive information was secured by other means, but still an awakening.
Next time you are out and about, maybe you’ll think twice before connecting to an unsecured, public network. Always be aware of the dangers and double check your security settings to ensure you have no issues. Even connecting for a second can make you vulnerable.
Baig, A. (October 19, 2018). 5 Tips for Staying Safe on Public Wi-Fi Networks.
Micro B Life. (July 18, 2022). What Risks And Safeguards Are Associated With Wireless Communication?
PSafe Newsroom. (June 19, 2017). Internet Security: Is Your Smartphone Safer Than Your PC?