Why Free WiFi Could Be Bad for You and How to Protect Yourself?

The experts of an online security company are dividing the information about the dangers of free WiFi networks. Nowadays mobile devices have flooded the market and many users prefer tablets and smart-phones over regular PC's. Almost any device with a complex OS (e.g Android, IOS) has a built-in WiFi module, which provides wireless Internet connectivity and makes the magic happen. As a result, many services like hotels and restaurants offer free WiFi as a bonus for their customers. That is, of course a great addition but it can also provoke certain dangers as well.

Why Free WiFi Could Be Bad for You and How to Protect Yourself?

Great example of that is the operation called Darkhotel APT. Basically it was an intelligent virus that stole a lot of sensitive user data. Many people fell victims of the mentioned malware including CEO's of big corporations who used free WiFi spots. According to statistics, more than 60% of all WiFi spots have no protection whatsoever. This makes it easier to connect to such network. As a side effect, however we have the vulnerability of such network towards hacker attacks.

Experts state that great percentage of such malware infects device of hotel residents over WiFi in less than 2 seconds. CEO's and businessmen who travel to Asia regularly fall victims of such fraudulent schemes.

Why free WiFi is a risk?

A WiFi network that does not have a password will most likely have no protection like firewalls or closed ports. This means that an attacker can hypothetically identify your IP address and break into your device using standard system administrator tools.

The main dangers are:

  • Malicious software (e.g malware, spyware, adware) can be installed on your PC/tablet/smart-phone. Intruders utilize Trojan viruses that disguise themselves such legitimate programs (e.g Windows Messenger, Adobe Flash update, Google Toolbar, etc). It asks for administrative privileges to install. Once you click “OK” and allow it to install this malicious program will start searching for your corporate info, bank/credit card accounts data and other valuable info.
  • Hacker can penetrate your free WiFi Internet traffic. This can be easily achieved considering the fact that WiFi network is not protected with the password and has all ports opened for incoming connections. When access to your device is acquired the third party will start logging your Internet traffic and, as a result will have full access to your browsing history and other info related to it.
  • Public WiFi network gets an evil twin to steal your data. An attacker creates a completely different WiFi network with a name similar to your hotel's network (e.g Hotel_wifi vs Hotel_wifi_new). You only have to connect to that malicious network and all your traffic including passwords and codes for finance operations will go through that network (which gives the third party all the info they need).
  • Phishing Attacks. This is also one of the popular fraudulent schemes. Basically, a hacker creates a clone of the popular Internet website that has a look a feel of the original with slight changes. Once the users enters such site an intruder would try to convince them to enter their passwords and other data using methods of psychological persuasion and forms that you use to enter same details on the regular basis.
  • Malicious Technology. Security experts shared info about how this process actually works. It turns out that the virus is integrated into the HTML code. This gives the virus an ability to redirect the user's web browser to certain address, in this case to a Trojan virus. Hackers have integrated malicious pieces of software on the number of web resources. Hotels registration portals were among them until people in charge have taken necessary measures and secured their web sites.

Use Free WiFi and stay protected

Regular Internet users (even if they're not CEO's) also wouldn't want to expose their private data like photos and documents. It is needless to say that they may have their credit card details stored on their phone as well.

Universal Tips to Secure your Free WiFi connection:

  • Do not connect to a network automatically
  • Restrict public access to your apps, files and folders
  • Do not perform any finance-related operation while connected to a free/public WiFi
  • Make sure the name of your network is exactly the same your hotel personnel provided
  • Use VPN

Secure VPN. What to choose?

Currently there are many VPN providers on the market. You can also find many free options. But be careful with free VPNs. Some VPN's may not offer reliable encryptions, other may log your usage data. Not all of them are safe, however. There are a lot of advices on how to choose a VPN provider.

Published by: Privatoria

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April 13, 2016 at 3:36 AM by
Why Free WiFi Could Be Bad for You and How to Protect Yourself?
an anonymous user from: Lagos, Nigeria

Thank you, this vital information will protect me from been a victim because I connected almost all the time to free/open wifi.


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Online Threat Alerts Security Tips

Pay the safest way

Credit cards are the safest way to pay for online purchases because you can dispute the charges if you never get the goods or services or if the offer was misrepresented. Federal law limits your liability to $50 if someone makes unauthorized charges to your account, and most credit card issuers will remove them completely if you report the problem promptly.

Guard your personal information

In any transaction you conduct, make sure to check with your state or local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if the seller, charity, company, or organization is credible. Be especially wary if the entity is unfamiliar to you. Always call the number found on a website’s contact information to make sure the number legitimately belongs to the entity you are dealing with.

Be careful of the information you share

Never give out your codes, passwords or personal information, unless you are sure of who you're dealing with

Know who you’re dealing with

Crooks pretending to be from companies you do business with may call or send an email, claiming they need to verify your personal information. Don’t provide your credit card or bank account number unless you are actually paying for something and know who you are sending payment to. Your social security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Be especially suspicious if someone claiming to be from a company with whom you have an account asks for information that the business already has.

Check your accounts

Regularly check your account transactions and report any suspicious or unauthorised transactions.

Don’t believe promises of easy money

If someone claims that you can earn money with little or no work, get a loan or credit card even if you have bad credit, or make money on an investment with little or no risk, it’s probably a scam. Oftentimes, offers that seem too good to be true, actually are too good to be true.

Do not open email from people you don’t know

If you are unsure whether an email you received is legitimate, try contacting the sender directly via other means. Do not click on any links in an email unless you are sure it is safe.

Think before you click

If an email or text message looks suspicious, don’t open any attachments or click on the links.

Verify urgent requests or unsolicited emails, messages or phone calls before you respond

If you receive a message or a phone call asking for immediate action and don't know the sender, it could be a phishing message.

Be careful with links and new website addresses

Malicious website addresses may appear almost identical to legitimate sites. Scammers often use a slight variation in spelling or logo to lure you. Malicious links can also come from friends whose email has unknowingly been compromised, so be careful.

Secure your personal information

Before providing any personal information, such as your date of birth, Social Security number, account numbers, and passwords, be sure the website is secure.

Stay informed on the latest cyber threats

Keep yourself up to date on current scams by visiting this website daily.

Use Strong Passwords

Strong passwords are critical to online security.

Keep your software up to date and maintain preventative software programs

Keep all of your software applications up to date on your computers and mobile devices. Install software that provides antivirus, firewall, and email filter services.

Update the operating systems on your electronic devices

Make sure your operating systems (OSs) and applications are up to date on all of your electronic devices. Older and unpatched versions of OSs and software are the target of many hacks. Read the CISA security tip on Understanding Patches and Software Updates for more information.

What if You Got Scammed?

Stop Contact With The Scammer

Hang up the phone. Do not reply to emails, messages, or letters that the scammer sends. Do not make any more payments to the scammer. Beware of additional scammers who may contact you claiming they can help you get your lost money back.

Secure Your Finances

  • Report potentially compromised bank account, credit or debit card information to your financial institution(s) immediately. They may be able to cancel or reverse fraudulent transactions.
  • Notify the three major credit bureaus. They can add a fraud alert to warn potential credit grantors that you may be a victim of identity theft. You may also want to consider placing a free security freeze on your credit report. Doing so prevents lenders and others from accessing your credit report entirely, which will prevent them from extending credit:

Check Your Computer

If your computer was accessed or otherwise affected by a scam, check to make sure that your anti-virus is up-to-date and running and that your system is free of malware and keylogging software. You may also need to seek the help of a computer repair company. Consider utilizing the Better Business Bureau’s website to find a reputable company.

Change Your Account Passwords

Update your bank, credit card, social media, and email account passwords to try to limit further unauthorized access. Make sure to choose strong passwords when changing account passwords.

Report The Scam

Reporting helps protect others. While agencies can’t always track down perpetrators of crimes against scammers, they can utilize the information gathered to record patterns of abuse which may lead to action being taken against a company or industry.

Report your issue to the following agencies based on the nature of the scam:

  • Local Law Enforcement: Consumers are encouraged to report scams to their local police department or sheriff’s office, especially if you lost money or property or had your identity compromised.
  • Federal Trade Commission: Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or use the Online Complaint Assistant to report various types of fraud, including counterfeit checks, lottery or sweepstakes scams, and more.
  • Identitytheft.gov: If someone is using your personal information, like your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number, to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund, report it at www.identitytheft.gov. This federal government site will also help you create your Identity Theft Report and a personal recovery plan based on your situation. Questions can be directed to 877-ID THEFT.

How To Recognize a Phishing Scam

Scammers use email or text messages to try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could get access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Or they could sell your information to other scammers. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful.

Scammers often update their tactics to keep up with the latest news or trends, but here are some common tactics used in phishing emails or text messages:

Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. You might get an unexpected email or text message that looks like it’s from a company you know or trust, like a bank or a credit card or utility company. Or maybe it’s from an online payment website or app. The message could be from a scammer, who might

  • say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts — they haven’t
  • claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information — there isn’t
  • say you need to confirm some personal or financial information — you don’t
  • include an invoice you don’t recognize — it’s fake
  • want you to click on a link to make a payment — but the link has malware
  • say you’re eligible to register for a government refund — it’s a scam
  • offer a coupon for free stuff — it’s not real

About Online Threat Alerts (OTA)

Online Threat Alerts or OTA is an anti-cybercrime community that started in 2012. OTA alerts the public to cyber crimes and other web threats.

By alerting the public, we have prevented a lot of online users from getting scammed or becoming victims of cybercrimes.

With the ever-increasing number of people going online, it important to have a community like OTA that continuously alerts or protects those same people from cyber-criminals, scammers and hackers, who are every day finding new ways of carrying out their malicious activities.

Online users can help by reporting suspicious or malicious messages or websites to OTA. And, if they want to determine if a message or website is a threat or scam, they can use OTA's search engine to search for the website or parts of the message for information.

Help maintain Online Threat Alerts (OTA).

Why Free WiFi Could Be Bad for You and How to Protect Yourself?