Telangana: Police warn people against using free Wi-Fi

Cybercriminals could steal personal data through public Wi-Fi, an open source network, and blackmail users, police said.

ByAjay Tomar

Published Jun 18, 2022 | 8:02 PMUpdatedJul 21, 2022 | 5:19 PM

Warning against using free Wi-fi

The Hyderabad City Police have warned people against the adverse effects of using public Wi-Fi, as they are vulnerable to security threats leading to data theft.

The police said that when a person accesses a public Wi-Fi connection, it could enable hijackers to steal the user’s personal information from laptops and smartphones.

This comes on the heels of an “increase in these types of cybercrimes” in metropolitan cities like Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Delhi, and Mumbai, added the police.

Data-theft methods

Free Wi-Fi is available at a lot of places these days, be it railway stations, bus stations, hotels, or tourist spots.

It’s an advantage on one hand, but also poses serious security risks to personal data.

Free Wi-Fi could help cybercriminals hijack users’ email ids, social-media accounts — Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — and even other others.

The public Wi-Fi, an unsecured network, can also be used to steal bank-account credentials and other vital details, said the police.

One such way is the “Man in the middle” or MITM attack, where the hijacker — a third party — intercepts communication between two people.

With it, cybercriminals can then send their own messages, besides stealing users’ unencrypted data.

A senior police officer told South First that cyber-hijackers mostly blackmail victims — youngsters and corporate employees — for “money transfer” after obtaining crucial details.

He added that hijackers, who are often from Delhi and Mumbai, mostly target the “SBI app users”.

The police said that, at times, even government authorities are vulnerable to cyberwarfare.

Necessary precautions

The police urged people to turn off the Bluetooth on their devices and not access any bank apps while using public Wi-Fi networks.

“People should not click on links sent by strangers, and avoid using public Wi-Fi,” said the police officer.

A senior research fellow at Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses (IDSA) held similar views.

“People should use their own data connection in public places and avoid using public Wi-Fi. Another way is to use your own VPN (Virtual Private Network) so that the data stays encrypted and does not land in the hands of cybercriminals,” he said.

Asked how people should be educated about data-theft cybercrimes, he said, “People need to be digitally comfortable and treat the digital world the same as the real world.”