Wi-Fi hotspots are often a source of joy for most smartphone/device users in need of some free Web browsing or social media time. The benefits of free Wi-Fi access such as the ease of connectivity and opportunity to conserve cellular data makes it a common occurrence for most users to seek out these free connections in public locations such as parks, banks, hotels, restaurants, etc.
According to Yudala, Nigeria’s fastest growing composite e-commerce outfit, it states that caution must, however, be exercised when accessing sensitive personal information and/or carrying out online shopping or mobile banking activities over a free public Wi-Fi connection as this could pre-dispose you to grave losses from hackers.
Armed with routers, remote spying software and other tools for their nefarious trade, these hackers, whose increasing level of sophistication is a source of global alarm, are capable of setting up fake hotspots. This is booby-trapping you into thinking you are connecting to the Wi-Fi of a hotel you are staying in, for instance, while in actuality, you have fallen prey.
Six ways of being protected while using public WI-FI:
- Always remember your device can be infiltrated and your personnel information comprised when using Public WI-FI.
- DISABLE AUTOMATIC CONNECTION TO WI-FI NETWORKS:
Most smartphones are capable of automatically connecting to available Wi-Fi networks – a development that may expose you to lurking hackers. While this feature is often disabled by default, you can do yourself a world of good by double-checking to make sure. Better still, you can tweak your device’s settings to ensure manual connection to Wi-Fi hotspots. This way, you are protected from unwittingly connecting to a rogue network which may compromise your privacy and other sensitive information.
- VERIFY THE NETWORK’S NAME BEFORE CONNECTING TO AVOID BEING HACKED:
If you are not certain of that generic name being the official Wi-Fi network you are about to access, you will do yourself a world of good by asking. An employee of the organization concerned should be able to guide you in this regard and help you get connected to the right network. In the event that there is no one to verify from, it is better to err on the side of caution in order to avoid being hacked.
- STICK TO HTTPS FOR WEBSITES:
To avoid exposing yourself to the risks of being hacked over a public Wi-Fi network, stick to websites that use HTTPS during your internet surfing activity.
- TURN OFF FILE SHARING WHEN USING A PC TO PREVENT THE DOOR TO POTENTIAL HACKERS:
While you may not have direct control over the Wi-Fi network you are connected to, your computer is thankfully still in your control. Your computer may share certain information such as your printers, files, music library or even go as far as granting remote login to other computers on a trusted network or your personal Wi-Fi network. If not disabled when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, you may just be opening the door to a potential hacker.
File sharing must be turned off or at best automated to ensure that your computer automatically switches to a more secure setup when you are on a public Wi-Fi network.
- KEEP ALL FINANCIAL TRANSACTIONS OFF PUBLIC WI-FI:
This applies to mobile banking, online shopping or any other activity that involves exposing sensitive personal or financial information. Every public Wi-Fi network should be regarded as a major security risk as you may be sharing these connections with an eagle-eyed hacker.
BY Gidado Tukur
Consumer Affairs Bureau
Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)
Guardian Newspaper, May 31, 2017 page 34