The most obvious advantage of free Wi-Fi is that anybody within its area of effect can join onto it to get internet access. However, the network needed for such a public connection also opens up space for wrongdoers, who can also join onto the Wi-Fi. Furthermore, they also have opportunities to disrupt and tamper with your connection, or the public Wi-Fi itself. This article is about explaining what you should look out for, and also a way to counteract these potential threats. This method is none other than VPN, the most effective online security solution today.
What Can Be Tampered With?
The shortest answer is that any internet activity you do without some form of protection is at risk of being exposed. For example, if you surf the web on sites that are not encrypted by themselves (like an HTTP address instead of HTTPS, which is encrypted using SSL), then whatever you do is exposed on the public Wi-Fi. Usernames, passwords, billing info and your personal information are not necessarily safe. But then again, you should generally avoid inputting your sensitive information on websites that are not protected by themselves. This is true not only for free Wi-Fi, but in any online environment.
Man (or woman)-in-the-middle attacks at public internet spots can often occur in your vicinity. For example in an internet café, even another customer can be a wrongdoer. “Man-in-the-middle” refers to the type of intrusion: this third party interferes with the communication between you and your online destination, as if the person stood in the middle of a narrow alley, blocking information, altering it, or only letting select data packets through.
Such a destructive hacker (there are hackers who improve as well, though not in this situation) can potentially divert your data traffic, resulting in pages not loading in, or just information not displaying as it should be. Wrongdoers can also set up their own public networks on the spot that are designed for various negative purposes: stealing information, disrupting traffic, or just the plain annoyance of clients. Also, since data is sent from one node to another in packets, a hacker can intercept it, contributing to the failure of your public Wi-Fi activities. We would also like to discourage you from checking the contents of any unattended USB drives that “seem” to be left there. Chances are you might discover unsafe material. In any case, we suggest that you employ some sort of protection yourself.
VPN as a Solution
A VPN is a suitable alternative to keep you safe for one main reason: your data traffic will be encrypted. The company ExpressVPN provided a good basis for this article and thus we would like to bring them up as an example. Typically, the more bits encryptions run on, the stronger and stronger they are. There are also multiple types of them, depending on the method used to conceal your data. ExpressVPN offers the best package with every account: OpenVPN 256-bit encryptions. The only disadvantage of this, or any similar protection, is that the speeds of your connections are reduced. ExpressVPN on the other hand is hailed as the fastest VPN provider today, with quickness that barely deteriorates even with more taxing encryptions like OpenVPN in the use. Nevertheless, you can also access other types of it: L2TP/IPSec (generally for mobile devices), and the lesser used SSTP and PPTP.
On a final note, connecting is not hard to grasp either: you only need the public Wi-Fi to connect to the internet. You should simply run the given VPN client software afterwards, and connect to the best VPN server location available.
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