Scroll Top

PRIVACY AND SECURITY IMPLICATIONS OF PUBLIC WI-FI

INTRODUCTION

Within today’s socio-economic era, the internet is one of the largest growing areas of the technological skeleton. The devices, with the help of internet access, have revolved the ideas and modes of communication. The expansion of networking sites has created a surrounding for increased cyber-crimes due to the lack of judicial statutes. The Internet is a worldwide communication system that connects various individual networks. A robust increment of internet services over the last few years represents the most significant aeon for the national as well as international flow of information.

In this world of networks, everything is shifting towards the internet. Cybercrimes are becoming a huge threat to the community. Cyber laws are the sone basic enacted statutory provisions that regulate cyberspace. In  India, the judicial framework concerning Cyber Law comprises Information Technology Act  [2000][1], Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information ) Rules [2011][2], and Indian Telegraph Act [1885][3].

Data Protection and Cyber Security are the broad spectrum of cyberspace in today’s time and prevent us from unauthorized and malware access to our privacy. Concern about personal data and information is a problem for every second person we met. Just for saying, India has its Cyber Laws but still, it needs a different judicial framework for its cyberspace.

We all are well aware about the importance of internet and our dependency on it. In this situation where internet connection is the need of the minute, a public Wi-Fi connection would be like a boon to the person’s daily work. Public Wi-Fi is a free Wi-Fi service owned by a contributing group in public places. Public Wi-Fi in a reputed place is always password protected and has other secure authentication protocols for the protection of the privacy of every user. Public Wi-Fi allows devices to connect to the internet within a range of its network. The basic agenda behind providing free public Wi-Fi is to give knowledge in the form of digital freedom. “The Work from anywhere System[4]”  is expanding very quickly and so are the risks of using public Wi-Fi internet.  Those users who are connected to a public Wi-Fi network may be unaware that they are unknowingly sharing their personal and sensitive information which could reach the end in the hands of any skilled hacker exploring the threats of  Wi-Fi. Cybercrimes from public Wi-Fi are a common threat to every user which can only be solved by the proper responses of the judiciary.

SOME QUESTIONS THAT STUCK IN EVERYONE’S MIND WHILE  USING PUBLIC WI-FI

Now, Everybody is utmost aware of the risks related to the security and protection of data. Cybersecurity is everyone’s concern today. Various questions hit our minds while we connect to any unknown network for which we still don’t have the actual answers. A Cell phone is now one of the important parts of everyone’s life as it contains very sensitive and confidential information in it.  Not only personal data but also various social and financial information are there in the devices that we use. Therefore, it is normal to think about the safety of our device and the data in it before connecting to any new network. I discussed below some of those questions and their answers.

One should avoid the use of public Wi-Fi for banking. Banking details are very confidential pieces of information and if got hacked can bring a huge financial risk to us. Due to weak encryptions, we cannot trust any unknown network for banking transactions. Never use any payment via UPI  IDs over public networks. In the current situation, the world is shifting from atoms towards a bit. Every single task is done digitally via devices. Cybercrimes, in India, are dealt with under the Information Technology Act of 2000[5]and the Indian Penal Code of 1860[6].

Is public Wi-Fi always safe?

Public Wi-Fi has both circumstances, sometimes it can be safe but in some instances it becomes dangerous. The prevention to this extent recommends the use of highly encrypted websites to protect the information. Not only users but also service-providing websites do use encryptions to protect the data. But still, we can not fully trust public Wi-Fi as they are not surely encrypted and can be a danger to our system and are privacy as well. We must have to be very careful while surfing any public Wi-Fi. [7]

This is the very first and foremost question that comes to our mind when we connect to any strange network. “Whether we are putting our privacy at stake by using public networks or we are safe. As we know weak encryptions allow hackers to hack our devices and get our data. Hackers are technology experts and they can easily hack anything from a small bit of connecting unit. Positively, this decade is highly aware because of which the security status is turning to be safe from last few years. We must have to be careful of every possible threat that can be executed against our devices. [8]

 What are the security risks of public Wi-Fi?

It is very often seen in India that Government had provided free public Wi-Fi facilities to its citizens in every possible public place. People used to enjoy this facility at metros, stations, airports, hospitals, etc.  But it has its own risks. Some of the risks of using public Wi-Fi are :

  • Malware, Viruses and Worms.
  • Rogue networks.
  • Unencrypted
  • Network Snooping.
  • Log-in Credential Vulnerability.
  • System Update Alerts.
  • Session Hijacking.

All of these risks lead to damage to our privacy and personal data. If we got hacked while using public Wi-Fi then hackers can track every moment.

What should I look out for while connecting to public Wi-Fi?

Using public Wi-Fi can be dangerous in many ways, it is our responsibility to be on the safer side of cyberspace.  We should have to look out over some basic stoops while connecting to Public Wi-Fi. These  include :

  • Avoid accessing sensitive information.
  • Use two-factor authentication.
  • Use a VPN.
  • Stick to “ HTTPS “ websites.
  • Adjust your connection settings.
  • Use a privacy screen.
  • Keep your operating system up to date.
  • Turn off file sharing.
  • Remember to log out.[9]

INDIAN TELEGRAPH ACT,  1885 

PUBLIC WI-FI  network or any other related technology access has some legal criteria before establishment. The public Wi-Fi network is only permitted under a licence.[10]

It is written under the INDIAN TELEGRAPH ACT of 1885[11] Section 4  that establishing and maintaining public Wi-Fi needs a licence otherwise it will be illegal.

Entities can provide internet access through :

  1. Unified licence ( UL ).
  2. Unified Access Service Licence ( USAL).
  • ISP licence or UL-VNO ( Virtual Network Operator )licence.[12]

Providing safety while using public Wi-Fi is the responsibility of the entity which is providing the network.

CONCLUSION

After this thorough research, we can conclude that cybercrimes are a major issue in today’s span.  The available Cyber Laws are not enough to cater for this problem. The next move of society will bring us more closure towards the network, technology and internet connections. The risks towards cybercrime will grow more and more in the future. Everyone has experienced social crime happened with them at least once till now. Despite this, there is no proper statutory governing authority to regulate these crimes. Public Wi-Fi services sometimes seem like honey to a wasp. Public Wi-Fi users are grabbed by fraudsters as a trustworthy audience that can be misled into a huge storm which they would ordinarily avoid. The lack in the presence of judicial laws led to a huge cybercrime space.

Author(s) Name: Manuji Khiretiya (Technocrats Institute of Law , Bhopal)

References:

[1] Information Technology Act, 2000, No. 21, Act of Parliament, 2000 (India).

[2] Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011, No. 21  § 43A of IT ACT, 2000, Act of Parliament, 2011 (India).

[3] Indian Telegraph Act , 1885, No. 13, Act of Parliament, 1885 (India).

[4] Kristen Hicks, Risks In Remote Work, Shared Assesssments, https://sharedassessments.org, (April 12, 12:03 AM)

[5] Information Technology Act, 2000, No. 21, Act of Parliament, 2000 (India).

[6] Indian Penal Code, 1860, No. 45, Imperial Legislative Council, 1860 (India).

[7] FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION CONSUMER ADVICE,  https://consumer.ftc.gov, (April 11)

[8]The Economic Times,  https://m.economictimes.com, (April 12)

[9] Clare Stouffer, An Ultimate Guide on the Risks + How to stay safe, Norton, (April 12, 12:20), https://us.norton.com

[10] FE Bureau, Public Wi-Fi networks without licence violate law, says COAI, (April 24, 10:05)https://financialexpress.com

[11] Indian Telegrph Act, 1885, No. 13, Act of Parliament, 1885 (India), § 4

[12] FE Bureau, Public Wi-Fi networks without licence violate law, says COAI, (April 12 , 12:30), https://financialexpress.com