You have never been tempted to save your 4G or 5G connection, by using Wi-Fi in a public place. At first glance, these so-called “free” or “free access” networks seem harmless: they do you a favor, by allowing you to communicate with your loved ones or to browse the web in complete peace of mind. The reality is not that simple.
Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network carries many risks for your data. Hackers could use it to gain access to your personal information and then sell it. In order to understand how all this is possible, Numerama spoke with Pascal Le Digol, director of WatchGuard France.
“Wi-Fi is not a cable, but a shared medium”
The main advantages of public Wi-Fi are its accessibility as well as its freeness. It is found in most public infrastructures in France, whether you are at the station, in an airport, at the museum, or even at the university. This free connection in these free places can get you out of a lot of trouble. But, it could be dangerous for you, because it would allow certain third parties to have access to all your data.
For Pascal Le Digol, France director of WatchGuard, public Wi-Fi carries great risks and dangers for your security, as well as that of your data: “ It is indeed dangerous. Always remember that Wi-Fi is not a cable, but a shared medium. If the access point is misconfigured, users will see through the Wi-Fi, and hackers can then steal their data. This can go as far as stealing their crypto wallet. »
« The risk is above all that we do not know where we are connecting from », specifies the expert, before continuing with the most concrete example: that of WI-FI in airports. “You can connect to a network from an airport. Then, finally, find yourself in a network set up from scratch. This connection will allow hackers to access a data stream. Then, as soon as we transmit sensitive data such as our passwords or our bank identifiers, they will go straight into the hands of hackers.. »
The mistake not to make is to connect to your personal accounts. Pascal Le Digol explains to us that, ” if you log in to Facebook, for example, hackers will show unhealthy portals that look exactly like the portals where the person wants to log in. Naively, the user will access the Wi-Fi network and enter his identifiers then his password without knowing it ».
Pascal Le Digol also draws attention to the « sensitive data that is exchanged, such as session cookies and passwords “. Criminals would exploit them to locate your identifiers. This will give them access to other confidential information that they can sell behind — there is still a big business selling and buying stolen accounts on the web. The expert points out that, when the person connects to a public Wi-Fi using their machine, they can open access to malware [ndlr : logiciel malveillant] on his device and the hacker will thus be able to have access to all his data, even remotely. This use not only poses a risk for the user, but also for the company if it is professional equipment.. »
How to avoid these risks and protect your data
“To protect your data, the only real insurance is not to connect to public Wi-Fi”, explains Pascal Le Digol, before continuing: “if we do, it would be just to browse lambda sites, and not to connect to social networks or bank accounts. In any case, know this: it is always better to have a 4G or 5G connection than a public Wi-Fi. »
It is important to clarify that the VPN does not fully protect your computer or mobile phone. This will mainly be content to encrypt the data in transit. This is a good thing in absolute terms, but as Pascal Le Digol points out, “If the pirate manages to enter your machine, it is useless. Of course, we recommend keeping this to a minimum, but above all we must recommend practices that improve the level of security. ».