- Written by Peace Loise Mbae for KenyaKidz
Public Wi-Fi has become very common with Kenyans being attracted to every establishment from hotels, restaurants, airplanes, malls and even matatus offering ‘free’ Wi-Fi without their knowledge, exposing themselves to tones of threats including cyber crimes, hacking, access to sensitive sites and exposing private information.
According to a study done by Yankee Group, a technology research and consulting firm 96 percent of respondents prefer businesses that offer free Wi-Fi with 64 percent admitting to having selected a restaurant based on free wi-fi offered.
“But what most people don’t realize is that the internet is an expensive piece of communication media, and one that cannot genuinely be provided for free - someone has to pay for it, and quite often it is the person using it, either knowingly or imprudently,” Dirk-Jan Koeman Chief Business Development Officer Poa Internet.
According to Koeman, this marketing strategy has users pay extra in these establishments with the prices of the internet integrated into the prices of food, drink, and services offered.
“At coffee houses, for instance, the cost of internet access is integrated into the price of food and drinks. Other establishments entice buyers to give up their contact information to get free internet, and then uses those contacts to send marketing messages on offers and promotions. Normally, such mailing lists would have to be paid for, and they hold value in their own right,” he said.
However, like everything free, plugging into these public hotspots exposes users to many risks that everyone should be very cautious about.
“With today’s phishing technologies, criminals are tricking users into providing valuable personal information. Public Wi-Fi is particularly attractive to hackers because most connections are either unsecured or have shared passwords,” said Koeman.
Below are a few precautious you should take into account when using free Wi-Fi.
• Use Visual Private Network (VPN). It helps extend a private network to a public one. It keeps everything you do online encrypted.
• Never use public Wi-Fi to shop for things online, log into a financial institution or access other private sites.
• Use HTTPS when using public Wi-Fi as opposed to HTTP which is less protected.
• Implement two-factor authentication- It creates two stages of logging in so if someone has your details they cannot log in.
• Turn off automatic connectivity of Wi-Fi on your phone so it won’t automatically seek out hotspots
• Disable Bluetooth and only have it on only when using it.
• Look for a unlimited data plan for your phone to stop using public Wi-Fi.