Most of the time we tend to be connected to the Internet at our home, in a more or less secure and private network where all our resources are connected to each other safely and our data travels securely. However, on some occasions we find ourselves in the need to connect to networks that we do not own to make use of the Internet assuming several risks unknown to many.
A public network does not have to be exclusively Wi-Fi (although in most cases it is so) but these risks will also be present if we connect by cable to networks that we do not own, for example, by connecting the Laptop in a library.
The data, unencrypted
The first risk we run when connecting to a public network is that in most cases the information travels without encryption. This occurs especially in open Wi-Fi networks (no password). However, we run the same risk when other people know the network key and are connected to it by Wi-Fi or cable, since from inside they can also have access to the data that travels through it.
Conversations, passwords, emails and all kinds of information that can probably be captured by hackers who are analyzing the network travel through these unsecured networks. For example, there are web pages that send requests to servers in a manner similar to the following:
In this way, by not traveling encrypted, malicious users can capture that package and take control of the victim's account.
Types of attack that are usually performed on public networks
Hackers usually focus on 3 basic attack types:
This technique is mainly based on capturing all packets that travel through the network. In these packages, chat conversations, emails, users and passwords we send, etc., generally travel. If we use a VPN connection or encrypted protocols, this data will not be visible even if they "sniff" the packets.
This technique is used by hackers to impersonate the sessions that the user has started. For example, if the user is visiting a social network, the hacker can obtain cookies and other items to capture the session and impersonate the user's identity.
- Evil Twin / Honeypot
The hacker is the one who actually creates the access point, so all the information and all the traffic that is generated passes through it and can be stored or used for other purposes.
Tips to protect us on public networks
The best option we can take is to use a VPN connection. This type of connections completely encrypts us point-to-point traffic (from before leaving our computer until it reaches the destination server) so that hackers cannot obtain absolutely any information. If we cannot use a VPN connection, we must ensure that we use web pages that use the HTTPS protocol that also gives us some security, although in this way certain information will not be encrypted.
We must also avoid entering personal or banking information from these networks and make sure to deactivate any share (printers, folders, etc.) of our operating system to prevent other users from accessing them.