Nicolas Ojeda Jr., Deputy Executive Director at Department of Science and Technology-Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO).
Users who do not practice safe browsing on public Wi-Fi may fall prey to cybercriminals.
According to Nicolas Ojeda Jr., Deputy Executive Director at Department of Science and Technology-Information and Communications Technology Office (DOST-ICTO), while free public Wi-Fi enables users to acquire information from the web, cybercriminals use it to inflict damage to users' digital identity or steal personal data.
"The biggest threat to free Wi-Fi security is the ability for the hacker to position himself between you and the connection point," Ojeda told delegates at the Computerworld Philippines' Security Summit in April.
"So instead of talking directly with the hotspot, you're sending your information to the hacker, who then relays it on. While working in this setup, the hacker has access to every piece of information you're sending out on the Internet: important emails, credit card information and even security credentials to your business network," he explained.
The exploited data can then be used to access the digital system of victims.
As such, Ojeda advised users who connect to public Wi-Fi to practice safe browsing like choosing a secured network. "When choosing to connect to a Wi-Fi network, it is good practice to check its authenticity. Once connected, users should look at the URL to find out if the web browsing is secure. If the browser uses an HTTPS website, then one's information is secure. However, if the website has an HTTP address, your browsing is not secure and hackers can access any of the data that you transmit," he said.
In addition, creating a virtual private network (VPN) is another way to secure the browsing session. "A VPN client encrypts traffic between your device and the VPN server, which means it's much more difficult for a hacker to get the user's data," he noted.
Simple ways such as updating apps in mobile devices can also prevent users from becoming victims of cybercrimes. However, Ojeda said that updating apps should be conducted under a trusted network.
On choosing passwords for online accounts, Ojeda suggested one password that is hard to remember. "A personalised password that only the user can remember is one way to ensure their accounts do not get compromised."
On top of that, users must also be critical about websites that ask for personal account information to ensure safe browsing on a public Wi-Fi.
"Every failsafe and safety measures on part of the developers of a free Wi-Fi service can only go so far. In order to truly have a secure internet environment, it is a joint effort between the service providers and its users. Those who will use the service should be knowledgeable of the proper internet etiquette so that they don't fall victim to hackers and phishers," said Ojeda.
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