Open Wireless Network Threats

In Tech Blog by Justin Dauley

The days of thieves picking through garbage in hopes of finding a person’s credit card information or Social Security Number are over. Considering the rampant use of the internet for just about everything imaginable, it is no surprise that a new wave of cyberthieves has emerged as well, with a whole host of new tools to try to steal information online.

While at home or work we are likely accessing the internet on secure networks with the proper encryption and a monitored list of users, but at other times we are forced to access the internet from cafes, airports, malls, etc. These networks are often times free and can be convenient for accessing the internet on the go, but can lead to major security issues if not used carefully.
Wi-Fi hackers target these public access points to try to steal information because of the high volume of traffic on them and the general lack of policing to prevent malicious behavior. This combination allows hackers to take advantage of things like unencrypted webmail to steal passwords and access your emails.

We understand that personal hotspots can be expensive and that public networks can be extremely convenient, so here are some tips to help keep you safe next time you use a public access point:

  • Only connect to Wi-Fi networks that you trust and disconnect your computer from the Wi-Fi network when you are done
  • Turn off all of the shared folders on your computer. Hackers may be able to “reach into” your PC and access the information stored in your shared folders
  • Be extremely careful of what information you share while using public Wi-Fi networks. Logging into an email account could give hackers access to more of your data, since most of us use similar passwords for all of our online activities
  • If possible, use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which will encrypt the data moving through your computer
  • Source: Identity Theft Resource Center – idtheftcenter.org