Hacking: Beware of free WiFi when shopping, warns UAE authority


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Abu Dhabi: Authorities have issued a fresh warning to residents, cautioning them to avoid using public WiFi networks while shopping online, as it could expose shoppers to hackers.

“Using public WiFi to shop online while at public places is tremendously convenient but it might not be safe. So, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) instead or share data from your phone as a hotspot,” said the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority (ADDA) on Twitter.

The ADDA also pointed out that using a public WiFi may expose them to vulnerabilities, and, “shoppers should make sure that the online shopping sites are safe and reliable before entering their credit card details to purchase products”.

Cybercriminals have also been known to use public WiFi networks to prey on victims who are unaware of the risks involved when using open networks. According to previous Gulf News reports, cybercriminals tend to set up WiFi hotspots, often with innocent-sounding names, such as ‘Free Public WiFi’, that con users into logging in. Once people connect their devices to the network, all the information can be hacked.

Use a VPN

A VPN connection is a must when connecting to your business through an unsecured connection, like a WiFi hotspot. Even if a hacker manages to position himself in the middle of your connection, the data here will be strongly encrypted, according to cybersecurity firm Kaspersky. Since most hackers are after an easy target, they’ll likely discard stolen information rather than put it through a lengthy decryption process.

Use SSL connections

You aren’t likely to have a VPN available for general Internet browsing, but you can still add a layer of encryption to your communication. Experts at Kaspersky recommended to enable the “Always Use https” option on websites that you visit frequently, or that require you to enter some kind of credentials. Remember that hackers understand how people reuse passwords, so your username and password for some random forum may be the same as it is for your bank or corporate network, and sending these credentials in an unencrypted manner could open the door to a smart hacker. Most websites that require an account or credentials have the “https” option somewhere in their settings.

Turn off ‘sharing’

When connecting to the internet at a public place, you’re unlikely to want to share anything. You can turn off sharing from the system preferences or control panel, depending on your OS, or let Windows turn it off for you by choosing the “Public” option the first time you connect to a new, unsecured network.


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