Public WiFi Poses Security Problems According to Leading Experts

by Melissa Craib

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Outdoor Wifi Use image for Tech PR story

PUBLIC WiFi networks can provide the perfect opportunity to fool unsuspecting users into sharing personal details, according to leading experts.

In the run-up to Safer Internet Day, the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) is urging caution to those who connect to free WiFi hotspots due to potential risks many people will be unaware of.

It has become second nature to connect to WiFi in places like coffee shops or bars, but experts stress that just because a network is password protected, does not mean it’s secure.

Hackers have a whole host of tools at their disposal to find out what public WiFi users are doing online which mean they can easily find out sites people visit or personal information.

Gerry Grant, Chief Ethical Hacker with the SBRC, said: “When you connect your device to a public WiFi hotspot, you are potentially opening up your device for access by a hacker.

“They can see what websites you are visiting and track what information you are sending over the internet which can often have terrible outcomes.

“Take for example your banking password. You would never read this out loud as you typed it in to your device in a public place, but this is potentially what you are doing if you are using public WiFi hotspots.”

Often companies use WiFi details to track footfall in stores. For example, users of the London Underground are tracked using the data to try and improve service.

From this, companies can see what time people visit a store, how long they spend inside and where they go after.

Gerry explains that the best way to make sure you stay safe from the hackers, is to turn WiFi off when you’re not in range of a known network.

He continued: “I’d advise to always use your mobile data where possible.

“If you must connect to a public WiFi hotspot then make sure you only go on websites that are using HTTPS and never type in any passwords or personal information.

“It is very easy for a hacker to set up a WiFi hotspot which is made to look like an existing network and from there it is easy for them to either trick you into sharing information or sending malicious software.

“The safest option is to use mobile data or just wait a little longer until you get home.”

A recently updated and easy to follow factsheet, highlighting key information around public WiFi and guidance on safe and proper use of it is available here.

Safer Internet Day 2018 will be celebrated globally on Tuesday 6th February 2018 with the slogan “Create, Connect and Share Respect: A better internet starts with you”.


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    Private: Melissa Craib

    Melissa Craib is part of the PR team at award-winning Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh. She works on a diverse range of clients with the award-winning PR agency

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