Security Risk associated with Free Wifi and countermeasures

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Why would anyone pay for each megabyte when one can use it for nothing? The problem is that many of these “ FREE/Public” Wi-Fi networks do not use encryption mechanisms, and therefore are easier for attackers to break into.
Since there is no security validation, anyone connected to the network can connect to router and potentially to other connected devices and get hold of data( passwords, credit/debit card information, names , addresses, frequently visited sites and other sensitive information ) stored on the devices. With data in hand, the attacker is equipped for identity theft or for developing spear phishing email to targeted users.
It is very critical to understood that each individual is the first line of defense in protecting oneself and the nation and that Cyber security is everyone’s responsibility and no process and Technologies can protect you, if you don’t protect yourself.
Some of the simple and effective methods individuals can adopt while on insecure network:

  • Be Alert
    Public Wi-Fi is inherently insecure – think before you join. Laptops, smartphones, and tablets are all susceptible to the wireless security risks.
    Malicious users will set up bogus links that will intentionally have connection names similar to – coffee shop, hotel, office or Airport .Don’t connect to an unknown or unrecognized wireless access point, better verify the connection details like SSID and IP address with an employee before joining it.
    Don’t just assume that the Wi-Fi link is legitimate. It could be a bogus link that’s trying to access valuable personal or corporate information.
  • Turn Off Sharing
    You are unlikely to share resources while on public network, Turn off sharing from system preference or Control Panel.Windows prompts you to selecct the network type(Home, Public, Work) when you first join any network . Choose “Public” option to let OS disable “Sharing”
    Disable “Connect automatically” or Turn off PC discovery and limit the number of SSIDs your device remembers .
  • Use SSL Connection:
    Most users are likely to use same username and password for some random forum as it is for your bank or corporate network—strongly not recommended (Refer Online best practices ). The attackers knows your weakness, sending these credentials for less important forums in an unencrypted manner could allow smart attacker get your credentials for critical banking or corporate account. Most websites that require an account or credentials have the “HTTPS” option somewhere in their settings— enable it.
    But remember : HTTPS, does not assure that the website itself is secure , it just assures that your communication with that site is private and secure.
  • Use a VPN:
    If you have access to your corporate or any secure VPN, use it to secure your online activities especially if you have to connect to your corporate / banking accounts via insecure public network. Even if the hacker manages to eavesdrop, since the data is strongly encrypted, he will drop it then work with complex decryption in most cases.

Note : If you are not using Https or VPN limit your online activities: do not login to your corporate systems or perform financial transaction. It’s not even advised to login to your social sites. The only thing safe for you to do on a public network is browse.

  • Turn off WiFi when not required
    If you are not using internet resources, keep your wifi off. Even if you are not connected to any network, the WiFi hardware in your device is still transmitting data between any network within range, which could pose security issue.
  • Stay Protected
    1. There is no full proof security algorithm, each action just makes the door harder to break:
    2. Always lock your devices with strong private passwords.
    3. While using public network, be alerted that any information entered could be seen by others. .
    4. Always ensure your antivirus/anti-malware is up-to-date.
    5. Install a firewall on your device i.e., laptops, tablets, & phones
    6. Avoid downloading and installing software when using unsecured public wifi.
    7. Disable Bluetooth on devices before traveling(Advised to enable it only when required)
    8. Be cautious about what you receive or read online and the potential for phishing and identity theft
    9. Public devices should not be used for anything other than simple browsing, even when using Https.

Take the time to implement some security features on your devices and be sure to keep those functions up to date, before you connect to insecure Network.