You have every reason to feel safe when you are navigating the Internet in your home. You’re using your own router, only people you know are connected to the Internet, and unless everyone is streaming videos on Amazon Prime simultaneously, the Internet is not congested.
Things are noticeably different when you use public Wi-Fi. Just about everyone connects to public Wi-Fi because it is available wherever you go. It lets you do a little bit of work while you are away from home as well as keep in touch with those who are important to you without using the limited data you have on your phone’s plan.
Independent marketers who choose to work in public spaces and access public Wi-Fi are putting themselves at risk. Why do we say this? As the public grows more knowledgeable about data privacy laws and regulations, we see more malicious third parties attempting to collect private financial information.
Why Are Public Networks Non-Secure for Independent Marketers?
When you use an unsecured Wi-Fi network, one that does not require a password or login credentials, you are leaving yourself at great risk. Hackers and wicked people use these unsecured connections as a way of stealing people’s credit card information, login passwords, and other personal details. Unsecured Wi-Fi networks are the perfect tool for nefarious individuals who want to engage in man in the middle attacks, introduce malware, or perform Wi-Fi sniffing.
Hackers can easily infiltrate unsecured Wi-Fi networks. They can then gain access to your personal details and your sensitive login information. A mistake that many independent marketers make is thinking that hacking into the computer from an unsecured Wi-Fi network is hard. For professionals it’s easy and has been made it easier thanks to tools like packet analyzers.
Man in the Middle Attacks are when someone intercepts the communication between your computer and the individual you are conversing with. Criminals are able to access and intercept all of the personal data that is sent over unsecured networks. You will not know it is happening. The individual who you are communicating with will not know it is happening. However, the individual with malicious intent can eavesdrop, exploit your financial transactions, and steal your personal information. For more info read this breakdown of how the attack works.
Malware can be introduced into your devices if they are connected to an unsecured public network. Malware is so dangerous because it allows hackers to get access to things on your device. They may be able to read documents, access photos, and activate microphones and cameras for eavesdropping.
Rogue Hotspots are fake networks that are set up by criminals that use the actual name of the hotspot you want to connect to. Let’s say that you are at McDonald’s. The name of the network you connect to is McDonald’s Internet. However, what you’re actually connecting to is someone who has created a hotspot with the same name. Now, the owner of the fake network has access to everything that you are transmitting and receiving online.
Protect Yourself Using a VPN
A VPN is a virtual private network. This technology is use to add protection when surfing online. Independent marketers should use a VPN when using public Wi-Fi because public Wi-Fi is less secure and usually is not password-protected.
You can compare a VPN to a bullet proof vest that protects you when you are connected to the Internet. It adds an extra layer of encryption. Encrypting the data that’s exchanged allows you to surf the web in a private and anonymous way.
Of course, a VPN is not a blanket form of protection. You still need to use common sense and avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading information that could infect your computer with a virus.
When Should Independent Marketers Use a VPN?
The answer is straightforward. Anytime you connect to a public Wi-Fi network. You check into a hotel and one of the very first things the hotel does is grant you access to their Wi-Fi. That sounds great because this means that you will be able to work in your room, in the lobby, or at restaurants in the hotel. The downside is that there are a number of hackers and nefarious individuals who use hotels with unsecured Wi-Fi networks as a way to gain access to people’s private data.
When you using a VPN, the information that you’re sending is encrypted. This means that whether you are checking Facebook, accessing banking information, checking files related to work that are stored online, or sending data, your information is protected.
Don’t Fall Prey to Ignorance
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, upwards of 40 percent of people said that they were unconcerned about using public Wi-Fi. Even those who were worried did little to take steps to protect their connection when using these networks. This is disheartening, especially when you think about the activity that independent marketers engage in when using public Wi-Fi, such as checking bank accounts, using social media, and logging into personal email accounts. In another study Lucas Johnson, the founder of Privacy Australia, explained that since 2016 phishing attacks have actually increased rather than decreased. This is in light of more public attention, which serves to both educate but also entices more hackers.
When you use a VPN, no one, not even the ISP that provides the Internet or the business owner who allows you to use their connection, can hack or snoop on the information you are sending using their network. When you use public Wi-Fi using a VPN, your information is protected at all times.
In addition to using a VPN, there are a number of steps that you can take to protect your privacy. For example, use a firewall. Do not connect to sites that do not use HTTPS. When you’re not using your Wi-Fi, turn it off. Set your phone to forget networks that you are not using.
Free Wi-Fi offered by hotels, restaurants, and other businesses can be a lifesaver for independent marketers. Protect yourself and your information by using a VPN when connected to unsecured networks.