October 15, 2021

The Dark Side of Public Wi-fi

The Dark Side of Public Wi-fi

It started out as a service that was going to be used by cashiers, under the weird name WaveLan, in the early 1990’s. Ten years from there, standards were imposed, and it started popping up here and there. It never really took to our liking till the guys from the “bitten-off” fruit introduced Airport. Say what you will, but they do make great products so people started noticing and thus, Wi-fi was born and then free Wi-fi. One of the greatest single moves in coffee history!

We love free, who doesn’t? But free Wi-fi is not always as it seems. Being part of a network that is open to all, you are bound to run into trouble or two. Remember, you get what you pay for.

What is the greatest risk that comes with free Wi-fi?

The major risk you take when connecting to a Public Wi-fi is Security. You become very open to attacks from absolutely anyone. The most common way that a hacker can get information from your system is through what is called a man-in-the-middle attack. No, it’s not a classic Michael Jackson song. It’s a way for the hacker to position himself between your system, and the real Wi-fi, thereby making him the man-in-the-middle.

💻 ➜ 😈 ➜ 🌐

That’s him smiling there.

There are many ways that this can be done. There are even devices available in the market today for such a purpose. Basically, the hacker will create a Wi-fi that is similar to the real public Wi-fi or even exactly the same as the real public Wi-fi. He then positions near you and turns on his device. I know you’ve seen this setting in your phones or computers, wherein it connects to the strongest possible connection and remembers the password? What is stronger than an actual device situated just a table away from you? Once your laptop or phone decides it is a network that it has used before and it knows how to connect to it, you are hooked.

In this case, all your information will go through the hacker first before actually going to the internet. Everything you will do online will be tracked:

  • Social media
  • Emails
  • Banking information
  • Login information
  • Filling up of forms
  • Ad preferences
  • Sites you visit

This information can be taken and used in a variety of ways.

👉 Recorded and used later for personal gain.

👉 Used for ransom, especially if you are a company exec

👉 Used for spoofing, or the hacker can pretend to be you.

👉 The hacker can enter the systems you used with your credentials. Potentially damaging your work.

👉 Your social media life may be on the ropes once they use your log-ins, they can delete your phone through your Gmail or iCloud accounts,

👉 Personal Information is at risk as well.

How to protect yourself on Public Wi-fi’s

Knowing that there are great risks involved, there are also ways that you can stay protected on Public Wi-fis. Here are 6 tips to stay safe on Public Wi-fis:

  1. Use secure connections. These are sites that include encryption when they ask you for data. Say a site is asking you to login, you type on your computer– ABCDEF, when the website you visit takes this information from your end, it will encrypt the information. So instead of ABCDEF it could look like 112233445566 to anyone that is snooping, like our hacker. The website then receives your info and gets decrypted by a key specifically for you and the actual site reads it as ABCDEF.
  2. 2-Factor Authentication for logins. This ensures that you use 2 things to login. That’s usually your normal username/password and an authentication device like your phone or a 2-Factor USB key like Yubico. Even if the hacker sees your info, he would still need your physical key or phone to log in as you.
  3. Stop device sharing. There is a feature in phones and even in computers that allows sharing of files across a network. Turning this off means the hacker cannot send you malware that can go in and dig through your system.
  4. Do not browse important sites. Do not login to email, do not go to social media, don’t do your banking or bills.
  5. Use a VPN, If it is important office stuff. This makes your connection private inside a public network. `
  6. Turn your physical Wi-fi off on your devices, this way you don’t auto connect to networks and places you’ve been, like cafes and airports.

If it really is important and unavoidable, better to use your phone data instead, or just follow our tips. Get yourself protected.

If you are worried if you or any of your employees have been hacked in a Public WI-fi, give us a call at Boom Logic, we deal with hackers every day. We can tell you if you have been compromised, and help get you and everyone at your work safe from online threats.