Why Public Wi-Fi is an Enemy of Android Privacy


The mobile market is dominated by Android phones and tablets with more than 2 billion active users all over the world. Imagine the damage that a single vulnerability in this OS can cause by potentially leading to the breach of an ocean of personal information of Android users.

A nightmarish situation to say the least.

What’s worse, people use public Wi-Fi to perform tasks that you should only proceed with on a well-encrypted and secure network connection.It seems to me that the average joe has no idea of the amount information and extent of details they unwittingly reveal on a Wi-Fi network when they connect their Android phones to one.

Awareness is the first step towards better control of your security and privacy.

Knowledge is power, after all.

Poor Encryption in Public Wi-Fi Networks

Encryption protocols form the backbone of security on the web. However, public Wi-Fi hotspots are rarely encrypted at all. Since they are intended for public use, they are not even protected by a password.

As a result, all your traffic going from your Android to such a Wi-Fi network can be intercepted by a third party.

It is advisable to not refrain using public Wi-Fi for any sensitive tasks such as online purchases that require you to enter credit card information.

You can reduce the risks and threats present on public Wi-Fi by using the best Android VPN. The benefit of a VPN is that it reroutes all your traffic through an encrypted and private network, which naturally increases your security.

Wi-Fi routers see all user data

Using a Wi-Fi router means that all data that moves from your Android phone to the Internet is transmitted through the router. This means that the router can see this data, especially information such as IP addresses.

The situation is even riskier if the Wi-Fi connection lacks the protection of Transport Layer Security (TLS) and/or Secure Socket Layer (SSL). The lock sign in the address indicates if TLS encryption is active on your network.

If no such encryption is present on the network, then this leaves all data including passwords and email content open to the network operator.

MAC address reveals your device identity

The MAC address uniquely identifies the network interface of your computer or any device. This address is obtained by the Wi-Fi network as soon as your Android phone establishes connection with it.

The security of most public Wi-Fi networks is basic at best. This means that cybercriminals can hack into it with relative ease and identify the users who are connected to through visible MAC addresses.

In addition to this, Android phones also share additional information with Wi-Fi, including description or name that you have added for your phone. This only makes it easier for malicious users on the network to compromise your security and even perform identity thefts.

Connecting to Wi-Fi Automatically – NOT Recommended

I firmly believe that technological progress paves the way towards progress of modern civilization in all its rich aspects. At the same time, however, I do believe that technological conveniences make people needlessly lazy.

So lazy, in fact, that they would much rather leave Wi-Fi on on their phones rather than bothering making literally two swipes to turn it on when they actually need to use it.

Since Android phones automatically connect to an open Wi-Fi as soon as it detects one (assuming you have your phone’s Wi-Fi turned on), this is a serious risk.

It is very easy to give any name to a Wi-Fi connection and make it seem legitimate. For instance, your phone might detect a network named “Dunkin’ Donuts”, and for all you know, it could be a bogus network created by cybercriminals.

Any apps that you might have on your phone such as Facebook, Instagram etc. activate as soon as your phone finds a Wi-Fi connection to hook onto. This means that any information on these apps can be accessed by the creator of the bogus network.

Therefore, I strongly suggest that you keep your phone’s Wi-Fi off and only activate it when you trust the network you want to connect to.

Simple Measures to Increase Android Security

Using VPN is one way you can increase the security of your Android. At the same time, I suggest you make a habit of following a few simple safety rules.

It might save you a whole a lot of trouble later on.

Download Android apps from the Play Store Only

The apps available on Play Store are verified by Google and checked for known security flaws. If a given app is deemed unsafe by Google, it will be removed from Play Store so unwary users can stay safe.

Although some malicious apps may slip through this check, it is still effective in protecting you from a great deal of dangerous ones.

Rooting Android Phone is a bad idea

While it may seem exciting to root your Android phone to unlock additional capabilities, bear in mind that rooting actually undermines built-in safeguards in the operating system that provide security.

Rooting exempts apps from having cryptographic signatures that prove the safety of the app. Moreover, apps in a rooted phone can access data from other apps without requiring user permission.

These expose your Android device to security threats and leave it open to invasion by hackers.

Keep Bluetooth off

The Bluetooth in Android devices is another trail that allows others to track your location if you have it turned on. This can be a serious security risk as your physical safety can be on the line. There is no good reason why any unknown individual should be privy to your whereabouts.

This is why it is a good idea to keep Bluetooth off on your Android unless when you actually need to use it for a data transfer.

Summing Up

Android devices have brought people a whole new world of conveniences that simply did not exist until the first few years of the 21st century. It is unfortunate, however, that security risks end up being the price we have to pay to enjoy the full range of benefits of Android phones.

With that said, it is still within your power to take effective measures for protecting your security in this smartphone-driven world, some of which I have pointed out above.

Author Bio:

Osama is a staunch believer in the inalienable right of every citizen to freedom of expression. Writing about online privacy and security without regard to political correctness is his answer to the powers that be threatening our freedom. Deeply curious about Nature and the Universe, he is fascinated by science, intrigued by mathematics, and wishes to play guitar like Buckethead in some alternate version of reality.