Taking advantage of the many benefits provided by utilizing WiFi seems like a win-win! Unfortunately, there is a big difference between using secure WiFi at your home or office and connecting to public WiFi.
The Security Risks Presented when Using Public WiFi
- Use one to connect computers, laptops, shared storage devices, and printers.
- Use the other to connect smart phones and all IoT items like fans and thermostats, streaming devices like Roku and Chromecast, and for guest devices.
A very common type of attack is what is known as a man-in-the-middle attack, or MITM. The reason MITM attacks are popular is because while your data is being captured by a hacker, it is still passed on to its original destination and back to your device. This means you likely will have no idea your information has been compromised and will continue using your device normally, potentially giving away additional credentials or private information.
There are multiple types of MITM attacks. Some spoof ARP or DNS, which are communication protocols used between devices on the same network. Other attacks use SSID spoofing. This type of attack requires bringing a secondary device, which can be small enough to easily hide in a backpack. The secondary device connects to the public WiFi then broadcasts and tricks client devices into connecting to it instead of the intended wireless network.
MITM attacks can be done quietly, without your knowledge, and are difficult to detect because your device continues to operate "normally". While there are hardware devices that can help combat these types of attacks, there is no way to know the public network you have connected to supports them or has enabled those features. Some people utilize Virtual Private Network, or VPN, services to protect themselves. Keep in mind, if the VPN is a public service, your data is still traveling across an unknown set of systems owned by strangers.
The best possible protection you can implement is turning your smartphone into a wireless hotspot and connecting to it to access the internet. One smartphone can connect multiple devices, though speed can be an issue with multiple connections. If you are unsure how to turn your smartphone into a wireless hotspot, visit our post for instructions at https://eyonic.com/1/?3I. NOTE: Keep in mind attaching devices to your smartphone means you are transferring data that will count towards your existing cellular data plan. Be sure you have plenty of data available when using a phone as a hotspot so you do not go over your data plan allotment.
As always, there is more than one way to protect yourself, knowing how - especially when it is simple and may not cost anything - is key!