Caution with public Wifi

December 26, 2022


You may have heard that you shouldn’t open your PayPal or bank account while on public WiFi. But there are other risks, too. For example, there was a recent incident at a Starbucks where the store’s WiFi had been compromised by malware causing every computer logged in to mine for cryptocurrency.  Also, your fellow public WiFi users may be infected with malware, which can put you at risk.

If you or your coworkers spend time traveling, you probably find yourself logging into a public WiFi network at some point — whether in a coffee shop, restaurant, hotel or airport. We’re not ones to unduly push the panic button; however, you and your colleagues should be aware of some risks with using public WiFi.

 So why is public WiFi a problem, and how do you protect yourself?

Why it’s a problem

WiFi uses radio waves, which are broadcast to everyone in range of that network. That means anyone with the right software can see everything what everyone else on that WiFi network is doing online. Unless you’re are protected, that means they can see every site you visit, every bit of info you send out, and your login information for various sites.

At work and at home your network is (or should be) encrypted, so this shouldn’t be a problem. But public WiFi is, by definition, not encrypted — you don’t need a password to log in, or the password is available to everyone in that location.

 How to protect yourself

  • First of all, make sure any computer used for travel has a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN is a way for your computer to connect to a private network even if you are using a public WiFi. This will secure and encrypt your data and prevent snooping. There are many good VPNs to choose from, including McAfee Safe Connect and Private Internet Access.
  • Run a firewall. In Windows machines, simply set all public WiFi networks to “Public”, when you’re prompted. This turns off your local file sharing, and will block most network traffic.
  • Make sure you have up-to-date malware protection.
  • Be careful which WiFi you access. WiFi networks are not expensive to set up, and some scammers are starting to use them to steal people’s data and password It may not be so easy to tell that you’ve connected to a scam network. You may be given a screen where you are asked to enter your email username and password, giving your password to a scammer in the process.

 So when you’re in a public place with free WiFi, don’t simply click on any free network. Make sure you’re connecting to the one being run by the store, office, hotel, etc.

For more information on security and protecting your facility’s computers, contact Vanguard Resources.