It’s 2020. Is Using Public Wi-Fi Still Dangerous?
by Chris Hoffman
You’ve probably heard that public Wi-Fi is dangerous. Advice about avoiding it is almost as widespread as public Wi-Fi itself. Some of this advice is outdated, and public Wi-Fi is safer than it used to be. But there are still risks.
Is Public Wi-Fi Safe or Not?
This is a complicated topic. It’s true that browsing on public Wi-Fi is much safer and more private than it used to be thanks to the widespread embrace of HTTPS on the web. Other people on the public Wi-Fi network can’t just snoop on everything you’re doing. Man-in-the-middle attacks aren’t as trivially easy as they used to be.
The EFF recently came down on the side of public Wi-Fi being safe, writing that “There are plenty of things in life to worry about. You can cross ‘public Wi-Fi’ off your list.”
That sounds like sensible advice. And it’d be great if public Wi-Fi was completely safe! We’ve certainly used public Wi-Fi ourselves, and we don’t worry about it as much as we used to.
But, if you’re asking us whether Wi-Fi is entirely safe, we can’t say that. David Lindner at Contrast Security wrote a counterpoint to the EFF’s argument, pointing out the risks of malicious hotspots. The community over at Hacker News had quite a few thoughts about the dangers of public Wi-Fi, too. We’ve tried to explain the risks below.
Here’s the bottom line: Random people aren’t going to snoop on your activities on public Wi-Fi anymore. But it would be possible for a malicious hotspot to do a bunch of bad things. Using a VPN on a public Wi-Fi network or avoiding public Wi-Fi in favor of your cellular data network is safer.
Why Public Wi-Fi Is Safer Than Ever