Public Wi-Fi warning in South Africa

If you can avoid using public Wi-Fi, you should. This is the view of ESET Southern Africa CEO and cybersecurity expert Carey van Vlaanderen.

Speaking to ENCA, van Vlaanderen said public Wi-Fi hotspots are notoriously insecure and make it easy for criminals to target unsuspecting users.

“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,” she said.

She said 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.

These 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.

How to protect yourself

Van Vlaanderen advised South Africans to avoid using Wi-Fi hotspots if they can and rather use their smartphone or a mobile dongle instead.

If users do not have a choice other than to use public Wi-Fi, she said it is advisable to take precautions.

Use reputable security software on your laptop or mobile device to protect yourself against malicious hotspots, ransomware, and phishing attacks.

Do not 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.

Carey van Vlaanderen interview

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Public Wi-Fi warning in South Africa