These days, one of the most popular ways to get online is to use publicly available Wi-Fi at places like restaurants, coffee shops, municipal parks, and on public transportation. In fact, according to the findings of the research firm Informa Telecoms & Media, the market for public hotspots is soaring, and the total number of such public networks will soon exceed six million worldwide.
Most people, if questioned, would say that the growth in Wi-Fi hotspots is the best thing ever for the web-using public. Unfortunately, the one factor most people overlook is the matter of security and safety. That’s because publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots offer no encryption of data, which means criminals and hackers have an easy job of stealing a raft of private information, some of it highly sensitive.
The funny thing is few people would think it wise to stand in a crowded street and holler out their pin numbers so that all and sundry could hear, yet they effectively do the exact same thing each and every time they log on to a Wi-Fi hotspot in a public place!
Most people are of the (mistaken) opinion that Wi-Fi hotspots offered by major firms are perfectly safe, but they need to get wise to the reality of the situation! The bad news is large numbers of scammers and fraudsters are in the habit of giving their networks the names of big companies in a bid to get unsuspecting members of the public to connect. If you find yourself in a hotel or international airport, can you really trust the available networks that pop up on your screen, just because you see a name like Starbuck’s or Burger King? The answer is most certainly not. In fact, the two companies just named are among many these days that recommend the public use VPN tunnels when hooking up to their Wi-Fi services.
To be fair, fraudulently named hotspots are the best weapon in the armory of scammers looking to snag data illegally. Furthermore, once web users get hit by scammers, they can lose one hell of a lot: Britain’s Fraud Prevention Service stated recently that individuals who fall victim to online identity theft generally need two or three weeks in order to get over the impact of it all.
The question is what options are available to members of the public who want to redress the balance in their favor? Is it a matter of avoiding the use of Wi-Fi hotspot connections entirely? Actually, you might as well crawl underneath a large boulder and spend the rest of your life there, for all the good it would do you!
Now, the good news is that the public CAN actually protect themselves online using VPN tech. Virtual Private Networks are web users’ best shot for resisting “hotspot hackers”, because VPNs will encrypt data and send it up and down a secure tunnel. That means hackers may get their hands on packets of data, but it will be meaningless gibberish to them. Furthermore, using a VPN entails being given a different IP address, so your identity online gets cloaked.
At the end of the day, using publicly available Wi-Fi hotspots is a bad idea all round, but it is particularly risky if you plan on doing any of the following: online banking; online shopping; logging in to social media sites; and sending/receiving emails containing personal or sensitive information.
In addition to using a VPN service, you are also advised to carry out the following protection measures: disable Wi-Fi, so your device will no longer try to auto-connect to hotspots; when using hotspots, only connect to sites employing SSL tech (aka “secure sites”); never use a hotspot to log in to shopping or banking sites.
But, really and truly, the number one thing you can do to protect yourself is use a tip top VPN service like HideMyAss. Once you sign on the dotted line with this kind of service, you’ll be perfectly placed to use public hotspots, because your data will be secure and encrypted every step of the way.
But, if you are foolhardy enough to disregard the above warnings, you should know that you could get hit for six the very next time you use ANY open Wi-Fi hotspot in a public place!