Dangers of “free” public Wi-Fi and how to protect yourself with VPN

Dangers of “free” public Wi-Fi and how to protect yourself with VPN

Internet and the whole cyberspace spans today across most of the borders, oceans and public hotspots are available in many cases even in facilities where modern urban infrastructure otherwise was still a plan or a dream within the offices of planning and design. Modern citizens barely could live without open and high-performance cyber-infrastructure as borders between “work” and “free time” blend together as more and more people make good use of public places in their work when studying and during personal social interactions. Public places are therefore important enablers for communities today, and it may be difficult to find today coffeeshop or library, restaurant or a pub which would not offer free public wi-fi services for its customers. Public and free networks, however, may come with dangers too, so its better to at least be aware of which network one has connected to before engaging into any risky, unprotected and unencrypted connections.

VPN connections are becoming more and more popular among casual consumers, and one of the best use-cases is to protect network connection while logged into a public Wifi — let it be in a cafe, hotel or similar facility. Without encryption in place, many protocols used in popular web services might transfer the data over the public network in clear text. This could mean, that anyone using the same network in the public facility could be intercepting and storing everything you do online, reading news, even get to know which bank you maybe use, which email provider and in worst case even get copies of your emails, credentials or other private information. It is good to remember that public and free can be a dangerous combination! With good VPN service, like the one from VPNMundo (www.vpnmundo.com), you can rest and be assured, that your network traffic remains private all the way across the cyberspace from your device to our servers.

Network authentication not present in free public wi-fi (encryption)

Free services are about convenience and even when there barely is such thing as “free cheese” available anywhere, most of the venues who offer Wifi for their customers, prefer to ensure that the barrier of entry to the services remains as low as possible. In practice, this might mean, that there is no encryption in place in the network, so anyone may connect and no questions are asked. As long the users are close enough to the Wifi hotspot, they can get online without passwords or anything. This can be convenient from the business point of view, as it does for sure attract clients if they can enjoy freebies along the way. However, it is also dangerous and puts the users of the network, and thus customers of the venue, into disproportional risk. At first thought for the one who run the service, this might sound like an irrelevant threat, since the venue is public anyway, anyone can come and go. But, the dangers with open and unencrypted wifi are more far-reaching than that.

It is good to remember, that a Wifi-connection is based on a radio transmission. Wifi hotspot, and every connecting device are therefore like small low-powered radio-stations. Now, everyone recalls the stories from centuries ago, when worlds super-powers built radio-antenna of the size of a mountain just to be able to act as “ears” and listen on broadcasts from far distances, mostly behind the enemy lines. In the same way, when connected into an unsecured Wifi-network, one will broadcast all of their network traffic “everywhere” around — it is just a matter of the size of the antenna if someone will be able to hear. This is exactly what Google reportedly did, driving around cities and recording Wifi traffic. And they stored that forever.

But, if you are using good VPN service, like VPNMundo is, those who would listen your unencrypted network traffic would only see scrambled data with little to no ways to interpret its meaning and significance.

Unexpected friends by association

Good old mum’s advice for their offspring was to avoid hanging around with bad guys. This rule of thumb barely has changed, even the definition of who could be bad and who not changes along the time. One thing remains, that people build strong group-identities among them, also in the cyberspace. Crossing the borders of those borderlines can be harmful, if not dangerous too, not necessarily because some group was “hostile” in itself, but because of lack of customs and manners to understand and operate within that group. This brings us to the second major thing a VPN can protect against when using public Wifi networks. Remember, that when connected to a network, every server and service you connect to using that network will get at least a loose indication on what that network is about, possibly even exact geographical location. But, there is more.

Many services in the cyberspace are known to profile their users based on from where they connect to. Now, when connecting online from cafes, hotels and other public places, the service you use, if you are not using a VPN connection, could track down quite neatly where you went, for how long and even make conclusions who you might have met there. This all, even you did not log into any services but just put the lights on.

Surveillance is one thing, but what is important as well is “reputation”. Many services provided in the cyberspace are increasingly utilizing the information of source network addresses in order to fight fraud online. For example, a bank or credit institution could use that information in order to conclude on the credibility of some transaction. When using a VPN service, the traffic from your device shows up as originating from the same network, wherever you physically are. This can help you to ensure you will be associated with only the things you know about and not, for example, receive an advertisement that was actually meant for someone sitting the same coffee-shop by coincident.

In short; with VPN service like MundoVPN, you could sit in a cafe next to the headquarters of MI5 in London, for example, and send them email that shows like having been sent from Moscow or Peking — yet these folks have eyes everywhere, so they would not be tricked that easily, but you got the point.

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