Public Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) users are at risk from hackers, but fortunately, there are safeguards against them. The recent explosion of free, public Wi-Fi has been an enormous boon for working professionals. Since these free access points are available at restaurants, hotels, airports, bookstores, and even random retail outlets, you get the freedom to connect to the internet using a shared network connection provided by the venue. People who work remotely or travel regularly find public Wi-Fi favorable. Public Wi-Fi is usually free and available to anyone within the network area. They are often unsecured, exposing your device and sensitive information such as passwords and financial data to potential hacking and malware threats. This freedom comes at a price, and few truly understand the public Wi-Fi risks associated with these connections.
Notably, one of the most disturbing cyber threats on public Wi-Fi is the man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. A Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack is a type of cyber-attack where an attacker intercepts and disrupts the communication between two parties, posing as a trusted body. The attacker intercepts, monitors, and potentially adjusts the communication, essentially becoming the “man in the middle” of the conversation. This type of attack can be used to steal sensitive information, inject malware, or manipulate communication for other malicious purposes. MITM attacks can happen in public Wi-Fi networks and other unsecured communication channels.
Some ways to prevent Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks include:
- Network Traffic Analysis: Monitoring network traffic for any suspicious activity, such as unusual traffic patterns, unexpected traffic from unfamiliar IP addresses or unexpected data transfers can help detect potential MITM attacks.
- SSL/TLS Certificate Verification: Verifying the authenticity of SSL/TLS certificates can help ensure that the website being accessed is legitimate and not a phishing site set up by an attacker.
- Trusted Proxy or Firewall: Installing a trusted proxy or firewall can help filter out malicious traffic and prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.
- DNS Settings Check: Regularly check the DNS settings of your device to make sure that it is properly configured and not pointing to a rogue DNS server controlled by an attacker.
- Encrypted Communication: Using encrypted communication protocols like HTTPS, can help protect against MITM attacks by encrypting all communication between the client and server.
How to Stay Safe when using Public Wi-Fi
Avoid Sensitive Tasks: Avoid performing sensitive tasks such as online banking, shopping, or accessing confidential information when using public Wi-Fi.
Use VPN: Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to encrypt your internet connection and protect your online activity from prying eyes.
Verify the Network Name: Make sure to verify the name of the Wi-Fi network before connecting to it, as attackers can set up fake Wi-Fi networks with similar names to trick people into connecting.
Avoid Auto-Connect: Disable auto-connect features on your devices to prevent them from connecting to unknown networks automatically.
Keep Software Up-to-Date: Keep the operating system and software on your devices up-to-date, as security updates can help protect against new vulnerabilities and threats.
Turn off Sharing: Turn off file and printer sharing on your devices to prevent others from accessing your device or data.
Log Out: Remember to log out of all accounts after use to prevent unauthorized access to your personal information.