The Other Side of World Wi-Fi Day

Article by Polina Hristova, Journalist at ROCCO

On June 20, 2017 we celebrate one of the biggest addictions of today’s society – Wi-Fi. The Internet has turned into a necessity for the modern individual, however, many places around the world have remained stagnant in a state of digital darkness, rendering the population alone and voiceless. Meanwhile, in first world countries, we grow impatient and irritable at the lack of Wi-Fi which has prompted businesses to equip their venues and vehicles with hotspots – a subtle but effective strategy to attract students and freelancers who can immediately turn any location into a popular and trendy must-visit, hipster wonderland.

But as the entire history of humanity dictates, our addictions and obsessions ultimately destroy us… a dramatic statement, yet there is an ounce in truth to it when it comes to all the red flags we ignore for trivial actions, like checking our social media. We keep forgetting that we are no longer shyly crawling in the twilight of digital revolution, but can successfully control and manipulate very sensitive data that can damage thousands, even millions instantly.

Your favourite café equipped with “free” Wi-Fi is actually a spider’s web – and you are the fly. If you are reckless, you will shake the web ultimately attracting the spider and sure, you will physically survive the encounter, but it is highly possible that your personal data might not. Most people are entirely or stubbornly oblivious to these dangers, even when confronted with the fact that simple tools which allow anyone to snoop on or hijack their browsing sessions do exist. A hacker can position himself/herself between you and the hotspot (“man in the middle” attack), absorbing every little detail of your online endeavors which will be certainly abused later; malware can also be spread through public networks. A message would pop, urging the victim to download and install specific software to allow them to use the Wi-Fi or it could also appear under the form of an innocent update to a popular program.

You are probably itching to find out how you can protect yourself? Easy.

  • Purchase a VPN: it will encrypt your activity and thus, stopping curious eyes from invading your privacy.
  • Enable the HTTPS feature in your browser and do not recycle usernames and passwords by using the same ones for every website.
  • When you connect to a new, unsecured network, your system usually asks you whether it is Public or Private to adjust its settings – always choose Public. This way, your file sharing will be disabled, protecting you from random snooping.
  • Run regular malware scans and improve your overall security.
  • Be aware of the websites you visit; if you do not have the above mentioned software, then it would be wise to avoid any websites where a login is required.
  • Look around and make sure no one is watching over your shoulder; better sit with your screen facing away from the crowd.
  • Some public networks give you the option to log in with your Facebook; avoid using this option as your name, date of birth, phone number, etc. will be harvested.
  • Resist using your debit card; if a purchase is inevitable, then use a credit card as it has better protection.
  • Make sure the network you’re connected to is legitimate as spoof networks often pop up to confuse the Internet hungry; it appears as a duplicated version of the original network and when you log in, a hacker will use that to infiltrate your device.

But not only criminals are interested in intercepting your data – your favourite café might be, too. It would be sold to help advertisers target you and the countless other people with similar interests. Such is the cost of the “free Wi-Fi”. Unfortunately, as travelling for business becomes more and more common, it is also increasingly inevitable to use public Wi-Fi.

The bad guys are usually looking for easy targets; they won’t waste their time decrypting your connection if there a dozen others ready for the take. So don’t stress over it, purchase a VPN and relax – there is no reason to panic if you’ve been warned.

Here’s ROCCO’s guide to how to survive public Wi-Fi. Infographic prepared by ROCCO’s Graphic Designer Jose Miguel Compi.