Last year, while delivering an IT Security Seminar, the SysGroup Plc team met a lady who was using public Wi-Fi at a London station. Her laptop was hacked while she was connected and she had data stolen. It was a hard lesson to learn in a brutal way. Using public Wi-Fi is a risky business. If you are not careful, information from your devices is sent out loud and clear so anyone with the right software tools could easily sneak a peak at what you’re doing.
Criminals can pick up your passwords or other private information, especially, if you use the same password on multiple sites. They can set up their own Wi-Fi hotspot, with an unassuming name like “Public Wi-Fi” to lure you to connect so they steal your data. These can be established using a laptop or smartphone and so you could run into them anywhere.
Public Wi-Fi also puts you at risk for session hijacking – the hacker who’s monitoring your Wi-Fi traffic tries to hijack an open session you have with an online service (like a social media site or an email client) by stealing the browser cookies which the service uses to identify you. Once hackers have that cookie, they can pretend to be you on these sites, or even find your login and password information stored inside the cookie.
This month we have put together some top tips to safe surfing on public Wi-Fi by laptop, tablet or smartphone to ensure that you protect your data by connecting your device securely:
Turn on your firewall, especially for public networks. Windows enables firewall settings by default during set up. However, to check open Control Panel, then Windows Firewall, and make sure it is turned on for both public and private network settings.
To change network settings open Network and Sharing Centre from Control Panel. Click “Change private advanced sharing settings” found in the left side of the screen. Under Private, Files and printer sharing, Guest or Public, switch off network discovery. Don’t forget to click ‘Save’ for it to work. Switch off file and printer sharing. Please note: To switch off sharing in Mac OS X visit Sharing Options > Change Advanced Sharing Settings.
Browser extensions are an effective security tool. These extensions enable bowsers to have a secure connection when visiting common sites such as Google, Yahoo, ebay, Amazon, and more. You can also create your own XML config file to add more sites not listed. It’s available for both Chrome and Firefox and works with Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Sites and search engines without secure a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encrypted protection. enable the data flowing through those networks to be visible to hackers to view your activity. It’s recommended that you connect via a Virtual Private Network (VPN) after logging onto to a public wifi, so that any web browsing or email activity is secure against monitoring / snooping. A VPN offers security and privacy. At SysGroup Plc we offer VPN solutions so that you can surf safely on public wifi.
Finally, it’s critical to ensure that your antivirus, malware protection and operating system are up-to-date. Operating system updates keep your system running efficiently and plug security gaps. However, your data is NEVER 100% secure on the Internet so the more security layers you create, the safer your data will be.
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