Internet shopping has undoubtedly made life easier. Today, you can use free Wi-Fi in hotels, airports, universities and other public places to transact online through any internet-enabled device. If you are an avid online shopper, free public Wi-Fi networks can come in handy if you want to avert hefty data charges while shopping online.
If you are new to the use of public Wi-Fi networks, here are some easy steps you can follow to ensure you make the most of the free Wi-Fi service while remaining safe online.
How to connect to a public Wi-Fi service
Click on the Wi-Fi icon on your device. When using a laptop, you can find the Wi-Fi option on the taskbar at the bottom of the screen. It can be labelled Wi-Fi or ‘internet access’ with the Wi-Fi icon. Click on this icon to enable Wi-Fi connectivity. If you are using an iPhone, go to ‘Settings’ and turn on ‘Wi-Fi’. On an Android phone, open the Settings app and choose ‘Wi-Fi’ or ‘Wireless & Networks’.
Once Wi-Fi connectivity is enabled, a list of all available Wi-Fi connections within reach is displayed. Click on the Wi-Fi connection of your choice, or choose one with the strongest signal and wait for the device to connect.
When prompted to agree to the terms and conditions, click on the check button to access the network. This activates the connection to your device. Some free Wi-Fi services also come encrypted with passwords. In this case, you can enter the available password to connect to the network.
Once connected, you are free to use the internet to shop or work online.
Risks of using free Wi-Fi connections and how to protect yourself
While public Wi-Fi is helpful, the main problem is the number of risks associated with using the service. Even when business owners provide this valuable service to benefit their clients, sometimes the hackers may exploit the security loopholes and attack public Wi-Fi users.
Man in the middle attacks
A man in the middle attack is a form eavesdropping. Once your computer connects to public free Wi-Fi, data is transferred between your computer and the sites you visit. Vulnerabilities in the network can allow a cyber-attacker to intercept the data.
With this attack, the hacker injects harmful packets into transmitted data. These packets blend into the data and seem like part of the communication, though malicious. The hacker is then able to access every piece of information transmitted through the hacked Wi-Fi signal. This is how hackers capture login credentials and even hijack accounts.
How to eliminate the risks
While there are numerous risks involved, this should not deter you from enjoying the benefits of using free public Wi-Fi. Increase protection with a VPN app to eliminate the risks associated with using public Wi-Fi networks. When using a VPN, all the data transmitted to and from your device over a public network is protected with end-to-end encryption. It is the best way to prevent hackers from finding your connection or intercepting your data.