What’s At Risk When Using Free Public Wi-Fi? 

Staying connected is what we do as Americans. We check our social media channels, shop, and even pay our bills while conducting everyday activities. From the corner coffee shop to airports, public libraries, restaurants, hotel rooms, and everywhere in between, public wi-fi hotspots seem to make these online activities convenient and speedy.  It may be highly desirable and incredibly convenient to use public wi-fi while out and about for work or pleasure, but should you use it? What are the risks of using that super convenient wi-fi while waiting at the subway or airport?  There are some major risks to using public wi-fi that every user should be aware of before they access bank accounts, read online articles, or check their Facebook account. 

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks 

One of the biggest dangers of using a public hotspot to do your work or peruse the internet is the Man-in-the-Middle Attack.  In this particular threat, a hacker positions themselves between you and the connection point. That means that while you are logging into your work files, bank account, or even an innocuous social media account, the “man-in-the-middle” is gathering information. The hacker could be gathering personal information such as login details, payment details, or credit card information.  With this type of data, the hacker can make purchases, withdraw money, and even apply for loans in your name. Be sure to follow best security practices even while logging in briefly at the public library. 

scam alert


Malicious software is another risk while you enjoy your coffee at the local java establishment and do your work. A hacker can slip malware through an unsecured wi-fi connection and onto your computer without you even knowing.  Once the malware has infected your device, it can steal sensitive information, delete files, and make your device inoperable. According to studies discussed on Kaspersky online, “Some ingenious hackers have even managed to hack the connection point itself, causing a pop-up window to appear during the connection process offering an upgrade to a piece of popular software. Clicking the window installs the malware.” 

Wi-Fi Snooping & Sniffing

Snooping and Sniffing is aptly named since it is exactly what it sounds like - a hacker uses special software or devices to help assist them with eavesdropping on wi-fi signals.  While snooping, a hacker may be able to see your login credentials, IP addresses, and passwords to various sites and then use it at a later date to conduct a data breach. 

Unencrypted Networks 

There is a great possibility that the free wi-fi you are using is not using an encrypted network. That means that it is much easier for a scammer to get ahold of your web traffic and use it for nefarious activities like Man-in-the-Middle attacks.

Tips to Avoid the Risks of Free Wi-Fi

Here are a few steps you may want to take to protect your device and private or work information next time you find yourself tempted to use free public wi-fi.