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You Could Lose EVERYTHING If You Connect To A Public WiFi Network

It's not worth that Instagram update you want to post, promise.

Public WiFi networks, which connect us to the Internet without our having to enter a password, aren’t safe—a lot of us know that, and our computers have warned us that it’s not secure—that someone can see our private or personal information. But we connect anyway, because we want to access our social media accounts. 

Never do this again.

An article published in The Correspondent called “Maybe Better If You Don’t Read This Story on Public WiFi” shows just what connecting to a public network can do to you and what information you are unwittingly giving. A hacker in a coffee shop, through his programs and devices, was able to know where the people around him took a vacation and where they stayed; what devices they use; which websites they go to; their hobbies and interests; their problems; their bank accounts. He found their usernames and passwords, too. All this because he created his own public “WiFi network” and renamed it to “Starbucks”; and people like us connect to it, thinking it’s safe.

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So what can a hacker do with all that info? After identifying your email and password, he can change the password to your email and go to the social media, dating, and banking sites you visit and click “Forgot your password?” The new passwords will be sent to your email which he now controls.

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He can also divert where you go on the Internet. If you go to your banks’ website, with his program he can redirect you to a page he owns that looks just like your bank’s site. All the information you enter he can have access to.

This all seems really high-tech and out of a movie or TV series (aka the hit show Mr. Robot). Makes you wonder if this can happen here in the Philippines or in your neighborhood coffee shop. Yes, it can.

The Philippines has a community of hackers. In case you’ve forgotten, these guys have hacked government websites. Ours was hacked on Independence Day, June 12, 2015 over justice and freedom (or the lack thereof), and the hacker/s left a message for President Aquino. Two months before that, it was China government’s over China’s reclamation work in the areas of the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea. Fact is, some of those hackers have turned to programming to get themselves out of poverty—it can be through illicit means (stealing people’s identities) or not (working as a programmer, advising companies how to secure their information).

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But it’s best to be safe than sorry. The Netherlands National Cyber Security Center issued this announcement for good reason: “It is not advisable to use open WiFi networks in public places. If these networks are used, work- or financial-related activities should be avoided.”

Almost everyone connected to a public WiFi network can be hacked—we say “almost” because hackers know how to protect their personal details. And almost everything about you can be known. Someone can easily take advantage of the opportunity, and it’s like giving him your entire ID and life. Anything and everything can be used against you.

Follow Stephanie on Twitter.