Do you at least occasionally use public Wi-Fi networks? The ones available in the subway and airports, cafes and parks, and often totally free? It’s very convenient, but potentially dangerous.
Home (and especially corporate) wireless networks generally protect data by encrypting it. Suppose an attacker tries to intercept information that you receive (for example, emails) or send (for example, account passwords or bank card details). Thanks
to encryption, all they will get is a useless unreadable set of symbols!
But public Wi-Fi often does away with encryption. So any cybercriminal can spy on what you send and receive simply by connecting to the same network.
Another attacker might set up a fake access point with a tempting name like Free_Wi_Fi, and quietly harvest all the data of users who connect to it.
The situation is made worse by the fact that smartphones and tablets most often connect to available networks automatically. This is handy, but means that the device can connect to an insecure fake network set up by cybercriminals to steal your data.
The dangers of free Wi-Fi in trains and other public places are well-known. But few people consider the security of free Internet access in a rented apartment or hotel. With that in mind, attackers sometimes target hotel networks in the hope of profiting
from guests’ data, while the owner of a rented apartment could take an unhealthy interest in other people’s online secrets.
How to protect your data from the dangers that lurk around every corner? It’s not that hard to do. Either don’t use insecure networks, or be sure to have reliable encryption. Let’s analyze both options in more detail.
One convenient way to avoid getting mixed up with free networks is to always have your own access point to hand, which these days any modern smartphone can provide. Make sure that when you set up an access point, you leave encryption turned on and
create a strong, secure password — then your hotspot can be considered safe. At least in your smartphone no attacker will be trying to scoop up all your data — assuming you correctly configured protection. From security perspective, the access
point in your smartphone is no different to that in your home.
There remains, however, the problem of expensive mobile data, especially when roaming abroad — a smartphone hotspot can be a pricey affair. In that case you can use a virtual private network (VPN) to protect your data. Data in a VPN is encrypted so
that you can securely transfer confidential information like card numbers and account passwords even in a public network. To draw a motoring analogy, on the free data highway you will have your own lane fenced off by a crash barrier. Or your own
personal tunnel under a public road, through which only you can go.
Using a VPN is as easy as pie: For example, Kaspersky Secure Connection not only lets you enable a VPN with one touch, but also independently checks the networks that you connect to, and reminds you to take security measures in those that might be
dangerous. Moreover, the application can be configured to automatically activate the VPN when connected to known public networks or when using certain programs that transfer confidential data.
You’re not at home, you’ve run out of mobile data on your smartphone, and you urgently need to send a work email. What do you do?