Is public wifi safe?
Whether you’re working at a coffee shop, spending the night in a hotel or waiting to go on vacation at the airport—public wifi is a convenient way to stay connected online. But is public wifi safe?
Public wifi can be risky when it comes to the information you share over the internet. Easy public wifi access gives way for hackers to take advantage of lax security features. Many people store personal information on their devices and connecting to public wifi could potentially put it in the hands of the wrong person. Understand the risks of connecting to public wifi and learn how you can safeguard your data.
Risks and dangers of public wifi
Here are some of the most common risks users face when connecting to public wifi:
Theft of personal or sensitive information over wifi
If a hacker accesses your computer or personal device through a compromised public wifi connection, they could easily steal any information you have stored, including:
Wifi cyber attacks
If you’re working or browsing the internet in a public setting, a hacker can plant malware on your device through a compromised internet connection. Common types of malware include:
Unencrypted wifi connections
When you connect to a secure connection, the data that gets sent back and forth is encrypted using a secure key. This means that anyone trying to access your information would need the key to read it. Unfortunately, many public wifi security features don’t offer any type of encryption. Which means anyone within range can intercept information you send or receive over the connection. If the wrong person were to gain access, it could put you at risk for a cyber-attack.
Risks of hotel wifi
Is hotel wifi safe? While hotel wifi is a nice feature to have during your travels, it can lack the adequate public wifi security measures needed to keep your information safe.
Hotel guest wifi is typically available to the public, meaning anyone nearby can connect. Unfortunately, this also means hackers can easily access the network and monitor any traffic going through the internet.
The security measures each hotel implements on their wifi will differ. As a result, you should take certain precautions when connecting. Avoid logging into any personal accounts with sensitive information and limit your browsing to finding local restaurants or entertainment.
Airport wifi hazards
Is airport wifi safe? Whether you’re waiting to catch a red-eye or stuck at a long layover, trying to connect to airport wifi can put you at risk.
Scammers are constantly looking for opportune moments to take advantage of tired or distracted travelers who aren’t paying close attention to which network they connect to. Common methods hackers use to steal your information through airport wifi are:
Do VPNs protect you on public wifi?
A VPN works by granting you access to a private and anonymous network that helps keep your online activity and data confidential. VPNs use encryption to make your data unreadable as it travels across a public network, making it difficult for hackers to decipher. Using a VPN when connecting to public wifi can help safeguard your information and is an important security measure to take, especially if you’re using the internet to share sensitive data.
How to safely use public wifi
Aside from using a VPN, other steps you can take to protect your information while using a public wifi connection include:
Public Wifi security best practices
Here are some best practices to follow for safely using public wifi:
Some internet service providers like Cox offer thousands, even millions, of hotspots around the country. Cox even allows you to protect up to five devices on your internet plan with free Cox Security Suite Plus powered by McAfee®, so you can connect with added peace of mind. Next time you’re in a public setting and want to connect to wifi, check to see if your service provider has any hotspots available.
Learn how Cox can enhance your connected experience