Using free public Wi-Fi at your local restaurant or shop might be good to download that big App or video. It is not such a good idea for personal digital stuff such as banking according to the ESET Southern Africa CEO and cybersecurity expert Carey Van Vlaanderen. She spoke to ENCA recently and indicated that Wi-Fi hotspots are insecure and is a breeding ground for criminal activities of cyber criminals.
“We have a situation where the networks are not authenticated at all, or where you have to authenticate and give your personal information to unknown parties,” said Van Vlaanderen. She indicated that cybercriminals often create malicious hotspots in public areas where they steal personal information which you send over the Internet through a man-in-the-middle attack.
Van Vlaanderen indicated that Wi-Fi hotspots are not easily identifiable as malicious and often have a very similar network name (SSID) to the official public Wi-Fi hotspot in the area. She recommended South Africans should avoid using Wi-Fi hotspots if they can and rather use their smartphone or a mobile dongle instead. With the high cost of data in the country this advise is likely to fall on deaf ears.
She did however advise that users who do not have a choice like most of us, using public Wi-Fi, rather take precautions.Her recommendations include:
• using reputable security software on your laptop or mobile device to protect yourself against malicious hotspots, ransomware, and phishing attacks.
• never use public Wi-Fi to do online banking or send other sensitive information over the Internet.
• use a virtual private network (VPN) if you have access to one.
• follow general online safety guidelines, like opting for websites which are secure (HTTS) and using strong passwords.
In response to the caution by Van Vlaanderen one of the major banks stated that “ we build our systems in line with the highest local and global security standards and apply very strict protocols on both our app and online services to ensure the safety of our customers.”