In this generation, there’s nothing more exciting than being connected to a free WIFI. With free WIFI, you can do almost anything that strains your data plan. Most people will use free WIFI even to check their bank accounts and other sensitive information. Free WIFI is mostly found in public places which are commonly referred to as public WIFI hotspots. These places include cafes and restaurants, airports, public halls and even in waiting areas.
Public WIFI is good, but most of the time it’s nonsecure because everybody can connect to it. This means that even people with malicious intentions can also connect to it and hence wreak havoc on unsuspecting users.
With just simple tools, malicious people can access any information they want from public WIFI. Below are ways in which these tools work;
- Man-in-the-middle attacks (MITM) – This is the first attack a malicious individual does when connected to a public WIFI. In MITM, an individual intercepts your network traffic before it reaches the destination.
- Spoofing – This is a technique of masquerading or imitating a legitimate entity. For instance, after a MITM attack, a malicious person can impersonate the receiver and send messages back to you. Malicious people can even launch a complicated attack; website spoofing. Unsuspecting users will log into/access the website thinking it’s the legitimate one.
- Snooping – Snooping is technically referred to as sniffing. Using this method, malicious people capture your internet traffic in terms of packets and analyze it.
- Eavesdropping – This is basically listening to what is going on in a certain public WIFI without the user’s knowledge, with the help of snooping, a malicious individual can then gain access to your messages and conversations.
Using the above techniques, malicious people can access everything they want in a network. Here what the techniques can uncover in an unsecured public WIFI;
1. IP address and MAC address
MAC address is a unique physical address that is used to identify devices on a network. An IP address, on the other hand, is also a unique address that is used to identify a device and also enable communication via the network. Unlike the MAC address, an IP address is not physical. With these two addresses, a malicious person can impersonate you and perform other attacks which will, in turn, seem to come from your device.
2. Login credentials
With the techniques above, malicious persons can analyze authentication packets which will in turn show login credentials. They might include; FTP logins, email accounts and passwords, and so on. This information can then be used in other hijacking attacks.
3. Sent/received files
Since a malicious person can intercept your traffic, he/she can see what you have been sending and receiving. He/she can further access those files and maybe alter the information or even worse delete them. If they are sensitive, they can be used to blackmail you.
The packets captured can reveal what you are accessing in a real-time manner.
How to be secure when connected to a public WIFI
Using a VPN
This is the ultimate tool that can help you avoid WIFI based threats and attacks. A reputable VPN provides security by encrypting all your internet traffic. This means that your data traffic will be scrambled and even if it’s intercepted, it won’t be helpful to the malicious person. A VPN also masks your real IP address as it assigns you anew virtual address.
In addition to security, a VPN can help you unblock and access restricted content in that particular website. It’s a win-win for you.