You’re in an area, maybe it’s a park, a coffeeshop, a hotel, a mall, or somewhere else. You open your laptop or phone to get some work done but you hit a roadblock – you don’t have an internet connection and you don’t know what the password is to the public Wi-Fi network (if there is one). But you also see one or two networks that aren’t password-protected just waiting to be used. Your mouse hover over the “connect” button. After all, what harm can an unsecure network do?
Wait! Don’t click button! Unsecure networks are called “unsecure” for a reason and the potential harm an unsecure network could cause to both your device and your information far outweigh the potential benefit of fast and free Wi-Fi.
What is an Unsecured Network?
In the world of Wi-Fi, there are two types of networks, secured and unsecured. The primary difference between secure and unsecure networks is the ability to connect without a password. This means virtually anyone with proximity to the network can connect.
Unsecure networks often lack any sort of anti-virus or firewall protection and any information transmitted across the network is floating around unencrypted for someone to grab.
What threats does an Unsecured Network pose?
By doing any sort of sensitive activity on an unsecured network (e.g. shopping, banking, emailing, etc.) you expose your information to anyone on the network who is searching for sensitive information. Hackers looking around on unsecured networks can access emails, login credentials, and can take raw html snapshots of pages.
An unsecure network exposes any user on the network to the distribution of malware. A secure network may shield its users with an antivirus software but unsecure networks provide no such protection and therefore leave machines on the network vulnerable to all manner of viruses transmitted over the network.
A hacker may setup a fake wireless network in hopes that some unsuspecting visitors search for free Wi-Fi will connect. Once a visitor is connected, the hacker has the ability to infect the machine with any number of malware or steal the user’s information.
Man in the Middle (MITM) Attack
In a MITM attack, an attacker breaks the connection between you and the network and inserts themselves as a mediator of sorts – receiving, manipulating, and distributing information as they see fit.
How to Avoid Unsecured Networks
The easiest way to protect yourself from the threats of an unsecure network is to simply not to connect to them in the first place, turn off your wifi roaming, and turn off your Bluetooth (Yes, Bluetooth can even lead to some security issues). But sometimes connecting to a public network can’t be avoided. Here are some ways that you can protect your computer and your personal data from being hijacked on an unsecure network.
Personal Antivirus or Firewall
A firewall is piece of network security software that monitors incoming and outgoing network traffic and allows or blocks specific traffic based on a specified set of security rules. When connected to an unsecured network, a localized firewall will deny entry to any malware that tries to infect your computer.
Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
A VDI provides a virtual desktop to it user from a centralized server. All activity that happens from the virtual desktop goes through the centralized server and all of the safeguards preinstalled and managed by the deployer of the VDI. You can work from any location and always connect to the central server for your company without sacrificing efficiency or security.
The internet is a dangerous place but it can be much less dangerous if you follow simple security best practices and take the necessary precautions. Both secure and unsecure networks pose threats to your security, however, understanding the difference between the two and acknowledging that unsecure networks are labeled unsecure for a reason may very well save you and your company a lot of heart ache down the road. Contact us today