More and more restaurants, cafes and other retail businesses are offering free wireless access for your mobile device. Although it is a nice gesture to give their loyal customers free Internet access, it has become a hotbed for hackers to gain access to your laptop, phone or tablet. So why shouldn’t you use free public Wi-Fi?
1. Wi-Fi intercept (this goes by other names as well, but it all means the same thing): any hackers have become extremely sophisticated and the equipment they use is also very advanced (and very small). With the correct equipment, software and know-how, a hacker can literally pull the data that you are transmitting between your device and the Internet router giving out the free Wi-Fi connection. Much like you can listen to a radio station as long as you are within it’s transmission range, a hacker can “listen” to your transmission of data, including passwords and anything else you type on your device while connected to the free Wi-Fi
2. Wi-Fi spoofing: Using a wireless hot-spot (available from any major mobile phone company) a hacker (posing as a customer) will ask for the name and password to the free Wi-Fi and then program the hot-spot to have an identical name. For example, if the free Wi-Fi is named “guest” or “coffeeshop”, the hacker will name his hot-spot “guest2” or “coffeeshop2”. Many unsuspecting customers will choose this other Wi-Fi as they will think the one named “2” will have less users and will run faster. Once you connect, you become part of the hackers mini “network” (just like being connected at your office to the company network) and the hacker has free access to your device.
So what should you do if you need Wi-Fi access while away from the office or your home? Use the hot-spot on your mobile phone as a Wi-Fi connection. Most all smart phones purchased over the last 3 years have a built-in hot-spot (it usually requires activation through your cell phone company). Once it’s active, it only takes a minute to setup. All you need is to create a hard to recognize name (don’t name your hot-spot something like “Tina’s wireless connection”) and a password that is at least 8 characters long (including an uppercase letter, a lower case letter, a number and a symbol such as ! or ?). Once you have your own connection setup, you make yourself a much harder target to get data from. Of course, the only 100% effective way to not get hacked is to not use your mobile device to access websites while in a public place. However, since we all like to stay connected far more than we probably should, at least make yourself a low-value target.
Accelera IT Solutions is a Phoenix, Arizona-based provider of complete IT services and solutions including on-site support, remote support, data backup and replication (to our secure data center), consulting for HIPAA and PCI compliance, IT project management and cyber-security audits and planning. Accelera also specializes in hardware consulting and installation/setup of servers, workstation, laptops and desktops. Our goal is to show you how IT can be a profit center, not an expense. Contact Accelera at 623-266-4190 or at www.accelera.tech