The European law enforcement agency has recently come out to warn the public that there are risks when using free Wi-Fi, especially when sending personal or sensitive information.
Free Wi-Fi is usually found in places like coffee shops, hotels and shopping centers and you can connect to them using your smartphone, device or even laptop. For free Wi-Fi to work in such a way, the system must be unsecure which makes it easy to access but this also makes it easy to intercept.
Criminals are taking advantage of hotspots and using them to steal information like usernames, passwords and even banking details. While a relatively new trend, the number of attacks is steadily increasing as hotspots become more available and there are even some spots set up by the criminals themselves solely for the purpose of stealing data.
Keep in mind this does not mean you shouldn’t use free Wi-Fi but just that you should be careful what you use if for. For example, feel free to browse on the internet but avoid websites that require you to log in like Facebook and Email. Also, you should definitely avoid online shopping and internet banking. These activities are best done at home or using your cellular data (3G/4G).
To make sure you are not at risk, you should be aware that many phones and devices are set up to automatically detect nearby wireless connections and some will even connect automatically. Make sure you go in your settings and turn this option off or simply turn Wi-Fi off when you go out and turn it back on when you’re at a safe place.
It’s also a good idea to note that there have been instances of passwords stolen simply by a stranger looking over your shoulder while you type so Wi-Fi risks aside, it’s always a good idea to be alert when doing anything private in public.