Wi-fi has become one of the great enablers of modern life. It increasingly lets us access an invisible media, communication, and control system around our homes and workplaces – and it can provide a vital portal of communication when we are out and about.
The wi-fi hotspots that are increasingly to be found in airports, universities, cafes, hotels, libraries, and city centers are definitely fantastic free resources. More and more are being opened across the globe.
These systems are now usually free – and they give anyone passing through the hotspot the opportunity to connect to the world using their remote devices.
It all seems a lovely part of a happy progression towards a totally free and connected world. But is the rapid growth of public wi-fi as useful as it seems?
The public networks that we access while on the move are certainly handy – but are they safe?
Home vs public wi-fi
Using a wi-fi network in your home or in business premises can be made much more secure. Most users do this by writing a strong router password and carefully limiting the devices that can connect to the network.
Using some sort of encryption can add another layer of security to the network. This scrambles the material being sent through the internet using a code that can’t be read even if a hacker somehow gains entry to the network.
In contrast, using a public wi-fi system offers none of those safeguards. Individual users can’t do anything to affect the security of the network – the lack of control seems to be the side-effect of the convenience of the system.
The dangers of public wi-fi
But we all know that any use of the internet can be dangerous as it is a largely unpoliced environment. Scare stories of scams and data thefts are plentiful.
But even the most careless user is aware of simple tactics like using passwords and watching out for obvious scams.
Using public wi-fi, unfortunately, makes all those risks of the internet much more immediate and threatening. There are very different conditions to access the internet – and you are not in control of them.
For example, it’s normal for the provider of the public wi-fi system to take you through a registration process. This may scan your device for malware or viruses.
But did you know that the scan may also allow them to see your cyber traffic? They may want to ensure there is nothing dangerous on your device or that you aren’t connecting with sites that may cause problems.
Do you really want the wi-fi provider to see your private traffic and data without your control or knowledge?
Even more worrying, other users on the same public network may be able to see what sites you visit and what information is being transferred to and from your device. These complete strangers could even hijack your identity and log in as you.
These dangerous outcomes don’t take much technical ability either. The latest hacking tools are available for nothing online.
It means hackers can discover your login details, and private communications, access your stored documents and personal information. Everything from your family photos to your financial records could be at risk while you are on a public network.
That sort of vulnerability can be the stepping stone to full identity theft. A scammer with all your information is able to impersonate you online to make payments or steal data.
How to protect yourself
Thankfully, there are usually simple ways to protect yourself from all online risks.
There is no need to abandon the use of public networks altogether. There are simple tactics that can drastically reduce the threat to any network.
Experts usually agree that the best strategy is to use a cloud vpn alternative. An online security specialist can make it easy for an individual or organization to secure a network – even if it is being accessed from a remote location.
Remote locations of course can include the corner café or the hotspot in a taxi. The best network security packages create an all-in-one platform that defends a corporate network against intruders of any type – wherever it is accessed from.
The key to this system is using a cloud-based business VPN network. This can provide protection to all endpoints of the network.
That means that no matter how many people are using the network – and where they are doing so – they will be protected. That makes it safe to access the network via any wi-fi system in a public venue or while traveling.
A sophisticated security system platform allows registered members of a network to use an array of devices like laptops, desk workstations, and personal smartphones. All-access to the network will be protected.
The VPN system will also encrypt the data that is sent between any device and the VPN server. If you do that via an insecure public wi-fi it can be hacked – but all the hacker will see is unreadable gibberish.
Public wi-fi offers great opportunities to extend business communication while out of the office and working in other locations. It does have inherent risks though.
The vulnerable nature of public wi-fi makes the case for using a business VPN system more compelling. It’s a simple unified way of protecting any private network – wherever and whenever it needs to be accessed.