There’s an explosion of free wifi in cafes, restaurants, hotels, and basically any other public space.
It’s a great piece of marketing for a company – anywhere that advertises free wifi is automatically more appealing to the general public.
Does this convenience and freedom come with a price, though? Very few understand the risks that come with open wifi, and what this means for their business.
Below, we explain everything you need to know about open wifi – including the risks and how to protect yourself.
What is open wifi?
Open wifi is basically wifi that isn’t password protected.
Secure networks are standard in homes – they require a specific password to get onto, and are considered the most reliable.
If you can surf the web just by clicking on wifi, you’re on an open network. This means that anybody and everybody can join, giving that they’re in the right distance.
If you cannot surf the web when you click on the wifi network and are directed to a web page asking you to log in, this is a captive portal. These are becoming increasingly more popular for businesses.
What are the risks of using open wifi?
Firstly, open wifi can leave your website vulnerable to snoopers.
Basically, hackers can use specialized software kits, which allows them to eavesdrop on your wifi signals. This will allow hackers to access everything your remote workers are doing online.
For instance, if somebody is working in your cafe, they may be able to get their login credentials and even hijack accounts.
In fact, hackers are the main issue when it comes to open wifis. They create an almost “mad in the middle” issue.
Connecting to free, public wifi will always bring a risk that your company’s data is intercepted by third parties.
Hackers can position themselves comfortably between employees who are using the wifi and the connection point.
This is obviously a big issue for open wifis.
You, your team, and your customers could also be tricked into using a rouge network, which has been set up by an attacker.
Rouge wifis mimic a legitimate hotspot that’s provided by a business.
Victims of these rouge networks will usually have no idea that they’re in danger. The attacks use trusted and familiar network names and those using it are none the wiser.
The entire experience actually feels completely transparent, the connection might be a little slower than other networks, but that’s really the only issue.
This can allow attackers to collect sensitive data, push malware to victim’s devices, and infect devices. This can be on mobile devices as well as laptops.
It’s essential to watch out for this.
Hackers can also use open wifi to distribute malware. This means that software, mobile devices, and computers can all get infected.
Being infected with malware can be financially crippling to a business, and can also be incredibly unfair on your customers and guests.
Hackers use malware to capture data and apply specific devices as entry points to even more data.
Open networks can also cause malicious attacks through ad hocs.
Ad hocs are peer-to-peer networks, which connect two computers directly.
When workers use the public wifi network, their devices are more than likely set to discover new systems – it’s usually set by default.
This little feature means that hackers can connect directly to them and get a hold of sensitive data. This includes the login credentials and also financial information.
Worms act in a similar way to viruses – except with one main difference. They must have a program to attack, and thus successfully compromise a system.
Worms can be absolutely detrimental to a computer and a business. They rely on security failures to target a computer and access them. This is why open networks are a favorite for worms.
When they’re connected to open wifi, these worms can travel from one device to another device. Worms can quickly spread, and reak havoc on devices and computers.
It’s essential to avoid worms as much as you possibly can, and also eliminate your risk to anybody else.
Obviously, the main issue for many people when it comes to open wifi networks is that it leaves everybody vulnerable.
Information that we need to keep private, such as passwords and usernames, can quickly become known to somebody else.
Of course, websites that provide a secure socket level or HTTPs are a lot safer – so this is always something to look out for.
How can you avoid these issues?
It’s essential to avoid any of these issues – personally, for your business, and the support for everyone around you.
You need to make sure that you keep your network safe. Don’t worry, having an open system doesn’t automatically cause these issues.
There are steps that you can take to avoid any of these risks. The truth is, the majority of hackers target easy victims – taking a few precautions will minimize your risk.
A VPN is a virtual private network connection – this is absolutely essential when you’re connecting to your business through a public network.
This means that even if the hacker manages to become the “middle man” that we talked about, all your data will be strongly encrypted.
“Most hackers will not go through the effort of hacking these types of computers or devices, as they are generally looking for easy targets.” — Ben Frederikson, content manager at PickTheWriter.
VPNs might not be available for general internet browsing. However, you can still add a layer of encryption to your communication.
You should enable the “Always use HTTPs” option, especially on the websites that you use frequently, or that require you to put in any personal information.
Hackers are usually very aware of how people reuse passwords, and so will easily be able to hack into other parts of your online life – possibly even your bank details.
Turn off sharing
If you’re connecting to the internet at a public place, you’re probably unlikely to want to share anything.
You can turn your sharing preferences off from the system preferences, or from the control panel.
Stay safe online
The key to staying protected online is by taking away any possibility of a hack.
You should add a robust internet security solution on your devices and your network. These solutions might be able to run a malware check on all your files, as well as make sure no viruses are running on your computers.
As the owner of the network, you can block various sites – particularly the ones that aren’t secure.
You can protect yourself when you’re online and also protects those that also use your websites.
You could also set up policies that educate workers, ensuring that they understand any risks associated with open networks.
Instruct your customers
Consider creating a document that will provide your customers with the necessary security measures. There are many resources like Issacurate, Jet Tech, and even our own website, where you can consult specialists that can create such a document for you.
Open wifi networks might be easy for your hotel cafe or restaurant – enabling everyone to access your system. However, it does come with a few risks.
Making sure that you, your employees, and those who visit are also safe can improve your overall service and make sure that everybody is safe, away from hackers, viruses, and scams.