Why Using Public Wi-Fi Networks Is Not As Dangerous As Ever?

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Public Wi-Fi networks, which were previously found dangerous for internet security and warned not to use them, are no longer dangerous as before. HTTPS encryption on most popular sites overrides old alerts.

Internet security! If you read the articles, you will be warned in many articles that you should stay away from Wi-Fi networks in airports, cafes, hotels and other public spaces. But there is one thing to know: public Wi-Fi networks are no longer as unsafe as they used to be. With HTTPS encryption implemented on the world’s most popular websites, doubts on public Wi-Fi networks are now largely eliminated.

Recommendations to avoid such Wi-Fi networks generally belonged to the period when most communications on the Internet were not encrypted. In the past, someone could read your emails when someone leaked into your network connection, such as obtaining unencrypted Wi-Fi packets. The same malicious people could steal your passwords or login cookies so that they could imitate you on your favorite websites. Sites using HTTPS were secure, but their number did not exceed one hand.

HTTPS encryption is very cheap
If it was with the 2010s, everything changed. Along with Firesheep, published by Eric Butler, it was shown how to infiltrate unsecured HTTPs, and websites noticed this situation and started turning to safer HTTPS. HTTPS, the encrypted version of HTTP, has become prevalent just in time. Last year, Google made HTTPS available to all Gmail users by default, and the news is pretty costly to do. Advances in hardware and software have made encrypting browsers easier and cheaper.

However, it took some time for HTTPS to spread all over the internet. This was due to the difficulties that network administrators and site administrators experienced in purchasing and installing the certificate required for HTTPS installation. While Let’s Encrypt, which EFF helped publish, ensures that certificates are free, Certbot has emerged as the easiest way to get and install free certificates from Let’s Encyrpt.

Today, many websites are changing their software and HTML to switch to HTTPS. Progress has come to such dimensions that 92 percent of the pages loaded from the USA are made with HTTPS encryption. Although the percentages are still low in other countries, HTTPS retains most of the pages visited.

HTTPS encryption does not prevent seeing which site you visited
Despite all the protection, some dangers still exist. For example, HTTPS protects your communication, but it does not protect your metadata. That is, when you visit a site encrypted with HTTPS, anyone on your communication path can see which domain address you are visiting and when. However, they cannot see which page you visited on this site, your username or the messages you sent. They can see the dimensions of the pages on the sites you visit and the files you have downloaded or uploaded.

So when you connect to a public Wi-Fi network, someone who wants to watch you can access these metadatas. If this is an acceptable risk for you, then you don’t have to worry about using public Wi-Fi networks. In addition, a vulnerability on your computer or smartphone can cause third parties to watch you. The best way to avoid this is to always use your software in the latest version.

So what about states spying on you? States follow users on the internet, usually by monitoring upstream data, from the core routers of broadband providers or mobile phone companies. If this is the case, governments can follow you through cables as well as wireless networks.

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