Facebook to help you find free public Wi-Fi. But is it secure?

Facebook, the social giant that many people check obsessively, is testing a new, handy feature to help their users find free public Wi-Fi directly via their Facebook mobile app. The tested feature is available only for selected iOS users in various countries.

“To help people stay connected to the friends and experiences they care about, we are rolling out a new feature that surfaces open Wi-Fi networks associated with nearby places,” a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable.

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We believe that being connected gives us flexibility and great opportunities, but before you actually connect to any public Wi-Fi recommended by Facebook, double check its security and speed. You can do it for free, using Avast Wi-Fi Finder.
Get Wi-Fi Finder

How does Facebook’s Find Wi-Fi work?

Once you click on the Find Wi-Fi feature, you will see an actual map with a Wi-Fi spots, showing you the distance and directions towards the public free Wi-Fi hotspots available in your area.


Image source:  Venturebeat

What about privacy and security?

At this point there is little information available about the Find Wi-Fi feature. There are many speculations on why Facebook is even releasing it. One of the strongests is related to the company’s mission to help people access the internet (even if it’s through its platform). Other theories involves collecting information about business and its users.

And then there’s the whole targeted advertising thing — getting you to free hotspots around the city could impact the ads that you’re shown within your Facebook experience, selling you on hanging out at more popular local merchants and restaurants, comments Ken Yeung

We don’t want to speculate, we just follow the available facts. One of our tasks as a security company is to raise questions about safety and privacy of users’ data. Facebook will use this feature to collect data about users for advertising purposes.

It will not only show you the business offering free Wi-Fi, but also how long it’ll take to get there and the network you can connect to. Facebook recommends that you give the app permission to access your location history, claiming it will “allow Facebook to build a history of precise locations received through your device.”

What about safety?

We know that open Wi-Fi hotspots are great: they allow you to access the Internet when you travel to new places. But losing your personal data is not worth it.

“Many of us have found ourselves in situations when traveling or working remotely in which we’re unable to find reliable and secure Wi-Fi. With the Avast Wi-Fi Finder, consumers are now able to find a safe and fast Wi-Fi connection whether you’re at the gym, hotel, airport, bus station, library or café.” said Gagan Singh, president of mobile at Avast.

What is the added value of the Avast Wi-FI for the users? Our technology checks for the vulnerabilities of the Wi-Fi Hotspot such as:

  • If the Wi-Fi hotspot is infected or exposed to a DNS attack
  • Other devices connected to the network, to verify its security
  • If the router of the hotspot is protected by a strong password and not accessible from the Internet, so upon accessing the hotspot, your device won’t be vulnerable to hackers
  • If the hotspot itself it protected by a secure password

Last but not least: for the maximum protection of your data, we recommend you use VPN protection.

In February 2016, we ran an experiment at the Barcelona Airport and gathered more than 8 million data packets, proving that open Wi-Fi hotspots are risky. We learned the following information:

  • 50.1 percent had an Apple device, 43.4 percent had an Android device, 6.5 percent had an Windows Phone device
  • 61.7 percent searched information on Google or checked their emails on Gmail
  • 14.9 percent visited Yahoo
  • 2 percent visited Spotify
  • 52.3 percent have the Facebook app installed, 2.4 percent have the Twitter app installed
  • Avast could see the identity of 63.5 percent of the devices and users

“Many individuals recognize that surfing over open Wi-Fi isn’t secure. However, some of these same people aren’t aware that their device might automatically connect to a Wi-Fi network unless they adjust their settings,” said Gagan Singh, president of mobile at Avast.

To make sure that your connection is secure regardless of the Wi-Fi hotspot settings and avoid looking extensively for recommended, secure hotspot, we recommend that you use Avast SecureLine VPN.

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