Stay vigilant when using free public Wi-Fi

19 January 2021 | Opinion

Windhoek • Desery van Wyk

As people look for diversity in working spaces from their “work from home” routine, such as coffee shops, the use of free public Wi-Fi networks and hotspots in these public places calls for caution when accessing your banking or managing finances on laptops or mobile devices.
Consumers accessing free public Wi-Fi networks can potentially fall victim to cybercrime as fraudsters can gain access to their passwords, personal and banking information. Connecting to any open or public Wi-Fi can expose you to security and privacy risks including ‘person in the middle’ attacks.
While not all free public Wi-Fi networks are unsafe, you can never be absolutely certain that they aren’t compromised. Criminals have the ability to hack into free public Wi-Fi networks and use sophisticated hacking techniques like installing key logging spyware to view and steal the information that you enter online.
Consider these safety tips when accessing the internet through free public Wi-Fi networks:
• Never log into your internet banking profile on a free public Wi-Fi network. It is safer to use your mobile network data.
• Avoid sharing private information and documents with service providers, friends or colleagues on free public Wi-Fi networks.
• Beware of connecting to spoofed or fake Wi-Fi hotspots that may be set up by criminals for the sole purpose of stealing your information. Make sure you have the correct name of the free public Wi-Fi network that you are accessing.
• Update your network settings to ensure that your mobile device does not automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks, as malicious apps may be downloaded without your knowledge.
• Always ensure that you disconnect from any Wi-Fi network once done or simply turn off your Wi-Fi.
• Avoid shopping online or entering credit card details through free public Wi-Fi networks.
• Be careful when logging into social networks on free public Wi-Fi networks that you aren’t familiar with as fraudsters can get access to your personal information and use it for illegal purposes.
• If you think your Smartphone, tablet or laptop might be compromised while using a free public Wi-Fi network, exit the network and scan your device using your Antivirus app or software.
• Browse and only download from trusted websites. Make sure that you are not on a spoof site by clicking on the security icon on your browser tool bar to see that the URL begins with https rather than http.
At FNB we use industry-standard security protocols to ensure that all information between customers and FNB is encrypted. When used cautiously, free public Wi-Fi can go a long way to help consumers stay connected and benefit from the knowledge and endless opportunities presented by using the internet. However, for security reasons, we strongly recommend the use of our award-winning Banking App for our customer’s day to day banking needs.
* Desery van Wyk is FNB’s Head of Digital Banking.

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