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Public WiFi networks typically don’t offer encryption or security. This article covers how to secure your iPhone on public WiFi hotspots.
Mobile computing provides us with the ability to work, communicate and play just about anywhere. Go to any coffee shop and you’ll see people using a computer or mobile device. Joining a public WiFi network can save on cellular data costs. Unfortunately, most public WiFi hotspots are not secure. Let’s take a look at the risks of using an unsecure hotspot and how you can protect yourself.
Risks of Public WiFi Hotspots
WiFi isn’t a singular technology. There are different WiFi standards, protocols and security methods. For most users, these choices are abstract. We usually just connect to the public WiFi hotspot with the strongest signal. Over the years, WiFi security has evolved and improved. Even with these improvements, most public WiFi hotspots don’t offer encryption.
Public WiFi hotspots are available to anyone who joins the wireless network. For the most part, these are frequented by normal, everyday users. Unfortunately, these open hotspots can attract malicious users looking to steal data. If you are using your iPhone on an unencrypted network, it may be possible for a hacker to steal your user IDs, passwords and even credit card numbers.
The worst case scenario is a counterfeit WiFi network. A malicious user can easily set up their own WiFi network, simply by using a laptop computer. They can give the WiFi network an innocuous name in order to entice unsuspecting users into joining the network. Once you have joined this fake WiFi network, the hacker can steer you to malicious websites and steal your data. For example, they can direct you to a fake version of your banking website and grab your login information.
Apps might not be more secure than a website. Many apps are simply wrappers around an embedded web browser. They might not look like a browser, but for all intents and purposes, they are. A well-designed app will ensure that you aren’t connecting to counterfeit server. As a consumer, you won’t be able to tell if an app is secure or not. It is possible to verify the security of a website, but this can also be spoofed.
Most public WiFi networks just aren’t secure. The WiFi hotspot itself might be a trap. If you find this troubling, rest assured, there are steps you can take to enhance security. Let’s take a look at how to secure your iPhone on public WiFi.
Ensure that the WiFi Network is Legitimate
If you frequent a coffee shop or other location, you probably know the name of the WiFi network. If you see multiple names where there used to be just one, it’s possible the additional network is malicious. Talk to an employee and ask if they added another hotspot. If not, it’s probably counterfeit and they may want to take action.
Whenever you are in an unfamiliar location, ask the proprietor if the WiFi network is legitimate. This might not always be an option. Some locations, such as parks, might not have any employees to verify the network. If this is the case, you can still secure your iPhone. (continue…)