Today, I was reading the Tech section of the USA Today website when I came across the wonderful article below on the dangers of using your computer/smartphone/device on public WiFi networks. In this day and age we all take for granted the ability to connect to a WiFi network so that we don't have to pay for cell phone data usage charges.... but we still need to be careful! Crooks know that you are going to look for a free site and they will most certainly take advantage of that fact.
Please read the following article.... I know you will find it quite informative.
From Kim Komando's Column and website: https://www.komando.com/tips/274169/learn-how-crooks-attack-using-public-wi-fi/all
Hackers will do just about anything to get their hands on your personal information. More and more hackers are taking to the streets and using the real world to attack their victims digitally.
One of the best ways for hackers to invade your computer is by using local wireless networks. If you're a gadget fanatic like me, then you're almost always looking for a nearby Wi-Fi hotspot to save on your smartphone's or tablet's data plan.
Criminals know this and have many routes to exploit almost everyone's dependence on free, public Wi-Fi networks that you can find almost anywhere. Like I said, I'm always on the hunt for a new Wi-Fi hotspot. I'm also security conscious, though, and I've had to think like a hacker to keep myself safe from them.
Here are a few of the most common ways that crooks can get their hands on your most important information through public Wi-Fi.
HONEYPOT WI-FI NETWORKS
Unrestricted Wi-Fi networks are a security risk both to people who choose not to secure their Wi-Fi and to the people who seek out unsecured networks to exploit.
An unsecured wireless network can be appealing when you're out and about. Chances are good that you'll want to pair your phone or tablet to a Wi-Fi network to save data.
What a hacker might do is take note of any local businesses that advertise free Wi-Fi and name their "rogue" network something similar.
If they get access to your PC through a rogue Wi-Fi network, a crook can easily install malware, keyloggers and any number of stuff that you don't want on your PC.
How do you stay safe? Well, keeping off of unsecured public Wi-Fi networks is one way. If you're willing to take a not-so-bad amount of risk onto your shoulders, though, you can make sure that you know what network you're connecting to before you connect.
If a coffee shop advertises free Wi-Fi, the only way to be sure that you're connecting to the right place would be to ask an employee exactly what their free network is named.
I've always thought that "sniffing" was a weird way to describe how packet sniffing works. If anything, it's more like an info-magnet.
If a network isn't "switched" (something that you can never be sure about on a public Wi-Fi), then the right program can direct traffic through a hacker.
Normally, your computer ignores any data being transmitted from a wireless router to another computer. A packet sniffer tells your computer to start reading that information.
If I showed you what a hacker sees when they run a packet sniffer, you'd have no idea what any of it means. It's really byte-sized pieces of information being transmitted wirelessly from your computer to a router. Packet sniffers reach out and snatch enough of this data to recompile exactly what information you're sending.
With a little know-how, hackers can figure out anything that you've typed into your computer. This means that they can figure out your username and password for any account that you access on public Wi-Fi.
Of course, all of this requires the network to be vulnerable and a hacker to be connected. It seems like a no-brainer to never connect to any important sites. Online shopping, banking and email could put you in the crosshairs of potential information thieves.
The basic purpose of a computer network, transferring data, can be most dangerous when it happens on a public Wi-Fi.
You don't have to be a hacker to take advantage of shared folders. In fact, anyone who looks around their network folders can instantly hunt for anyone who doesn't know how important their security can be.
Similarly, an enterprising hacker or prankster might share a "honeypot" folder on a public network. If your computer is connected, you might see it under your "shared" folders as something that might seem snoopable.
Let's say a hacker names a file "bankrecords.txt," they could embed dangerous malware into that file that, if opened, might infect your computer with something dangerous. When it comes to file sharing on public Wi-Fi, share nothing and don't be too nosy.
Russ again here..... in other words.... take nothing for granted.... always assume that when you are on a free network that people can see what you are doing.