Is it safe to work from free WiFi?

As Preston’s leading IT support and network services experts, here at Creative Network Solutions, we provide a range of top quality solutions and services. One thing we are often asked about is free WiFi, and this is our guide to everything you should know about the risks of connecting to, and working from, free WiFi networks.

What are the risks of free WiFi?

Free WiFi is a helpful and useful tool for all of us who want to be connected 24/7, or for people wanting to work from different locations, from conferences to coffee shops, airports to hotels. But there are risks involved with free WiFi and these include:

  • Sharing private information
  • Installing malware
  • Connection hijacking

How can private information be shared through free WiFi?

Free WiFi networks are unsecured networks by definition and this leaves a gap for hackers and cyber criminals to be able to exploit connections and run packet sniffing software to monitor all of the information that is passing between your device and the Internet.  This is usually used to gather information that can be used at a later date. As a result, using a free WiFi network for work can put your private business information into the hands of cyber criminals. 

How can free WiFi connections prompt malware to be installed?

Another of the risks associated with using an unsecured network is that malicious links and malware can be distributed across the network easily by cyber criminals and hackers. From fake WiFi login pages, to fake email confirmation links, designed to look like part of the log in process, there are a number of ways that hackers can send links or files designed to access your device and your digital identity. This can lead to instant stealing of your information to be used in a wide range of dangerous ways. When working from free WiFi this can be even more dangerous as it means that hackers may even be able to infiltrate private and confidential business information, or spread the malware beyond your device to other areas of the business.

How can free WiFi lead to connection hacking?

One factor that we haven’t yet discussed is how easy it is for any cyber criminal to set up a hotspot or free WiFi point that is designed to look legitimate. This means that you would willingly be connecting to a WiFi network that is being monitored with all information passing from your device to the cyber criminal, before reaching the Internet. This leaves passwords and security information open for interception, especially when working on the go. As you can guess, this information can be used to grant access for hackers, who would be using your details, to infiltrate your business or company.

How can you stay protected?

So, how can you be sure that your data is safe when connecting to a free WiFi network? Well, there are some steps you can take, although you can never be 100% safe on a free WiFi network, and to minimise risks, you should probably refrain from logging into any work accounts if possible. To stay as safe as possible you should consider:

  • Using a VPN – this is a virtual private network that encrypts your internet traffic. What this means is that though your connection will be visible, no-one will be able to see what you are doing, or what data you are entering or receiving. This should be downloaded on your device and turned on first, before connecting to a free WiFi network, especially when working on the go.
  • Running anti malware software- to make sure that any links you click on while browsing on a free WiFi network are safe, you will need to run anti malware software. This will immediately prevent any malware from being installed and will flag up any malicious links.

For more information or advice about our hybrid cloud solutions, why not get in touch with the experts today, here at Creative Network Solutions.