public wifi caution
public wifi caution


There are a few problems with using a public Wi-Fi network. The open nature of the network allows for snooping, the network could be full of compromised machines, or the hotspot itself could be malicious.

While using a public WiFi could have its advantages, it is advisable not to use it for online banking.

A report by says, “Don’t do your online banking or anything sensitive on a public Wi-Fi network.”


Encryption normally helps protect your network traffic from prying eyes. For example, even if your neighbours at home are within range of your Wi-Fi network, they cannot see the web pages you are viewing. This wireless traffic is encrypted between your laptop, tablet, or smartphone and your wireless router. It is encrypted with your WiFi passphrase.

When you connect to an open Wi-Fi network like one at a coffee shop or airport, the network is generally unencrypted — you can tell because you don’t have to enter a passphrase when connecting. Your unencrypted network traffic is then clearly visible to everyone in range. People can see what unencrypted web pages you’re visiting, what you are typing into unencrypted web forms, and even see which encrypted websites you are connected to — so if you are connected to your bank’s website, they will know it, although they would not know what you are doing.

More advanced tools like Wireshark could also be used to capture and analyse traffic.

Compromised Devices

Compromised laptops and other devices may also be connected to the local network. When connecting, be sure to select the ‘public network’ Wi-Fi option in windows and not the home network or work network options. The public network option locks down the connection, ensuring windows is not sharing any files or other sensitive data with the machines on the local network.

It is also important to be up-to-date on security patches and use a firewall like the one built into windows. Any compromised laptops on the local network could try to infect you.

Malicious hotspots

Most dangerously, the hotspot you connect to itself may be malicious. This may be because the business hotspot was infected, but it may also be because you are connected to a honeypot network. For example, if you connect to public Wi-Fi in a public place, you cannot be entirely sure that the network is actually a legitimate public Wi-FI network and not one set up by an attacker in an attempt to trick people into connecting.

Is it safe to log into your bank’s website on public Wi-Fi? The question is more complicated than it appears. In theory, it should be safe because the encryption ensures you’re actually connected to your bank’s website and no one can eavesdrop.

In practice, there are a variety of attacks that can be performed against you if you connect to your bank’s website on public Wi-Fi. For example, strip can transparently hijack HTTP connections. When the site redirects to HTTPS, the software can convert those links to use a “look-alike HTTP link” or “homograph-similar HTTPS link” — in other words, a domain name that looks identical to the actual domain name, but which actually uses different special characters. This can happen transparently, allowing a malicious Wi-Fi hotspot to perform a man-in-the-middle attack and intercept secure banking traffic.

The WiFi Pineapple is an easy-to-use device that will,  allow attackers to easily set up such attacks. When your laptop attempts to automatically connect to a network it remembers, the WiFi Pineapple watches for these requests and responds “Yes, that’s me, connect!”. The device is then built with a variety of man-in-the-middle and other attacks it can easily perform.

Someone clever could set up such a compromised hotspot in an area with high-value targets — for example, in a city’s financial district or anywhere people log in to do their banking — and attempt to harvest this personal data. It is probably uncommon in the real world, but it is very possible.

Source: PUNCH.

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