Using public Wi-Fi? Beware of shoulder surfers and fake networks.
Have you noticed how many public places offer free Wi-Fi to help you stay connected while on the move? How many times have you taken advantage of the complimentary internet access at your favourite restaurant or shopping mall? It’s tempting to use resources that don’t dent your pocket, but you could pay a high price if you’re not savvy about personal security and the protection of your web-enabled devices… Because open wireless networks and public hotspots are not secure – and cyber crooks are always on the lookout for chances to exploit vulnerabilities. Here are three of their most common tricks…
Trick 1 | Fake Wi-Fi | A network by any other name
Picture this… You’re inside Cuppa Joe’s coffee shop at the airport. You’re waiting for your to-go cappuccino before you head down to the departure area. You decide to use the free Wi-Fi to check the weather in your destination city. You turn on your phone’s Wi-Fi and see a list of available networks, including Cuppa_Joes, CuppaJoe, CuppaJoePublic, and CuppaJo. How do you know which Wi-Fi is the shop’s legitimate network for customers?
It’s easy for cyber villains to set up a fake Wi-Fi hotspot that mimics the local network in a specific area. And if you’re distracted, tired, or in a hurry, you might not be as alert as you normally are. One simple mistake on your part might be all a hacker needs to access your device.
Trick 2 | Shoulder surfing | Screen surveillance by strangers
Picture this… You’re standing in line at the reception desk of your hotel. You’re connected to the public Wi-Fi in the lobby and you’re typing in your Facebook username and password so you can post a quick update for your family back home. There’s a stranger in line behind you, standing close enough to see your device screen. You’re not really paying attention to their movements, but they’re watching yours like a hawk. And they’ve just seen your login credentials.
What could they do with that information? They could access your Facebook account and see the personal information you’ve listed on your profile. Information like your full name, birthday, email address, phone number, and place of work. Private material like photos of your family or your home. Sensitive details like your location-based check-ins, your friend lists, your comment history, and your group affiliations. This kind of data is a goldmine for identity thieves and fraudsters.
Trick 3 | Malicious infection | Shared connection, shared contagion
Picture this… You’re relaxing by the hotel pool, sharing the free Wi-Fi with dozens of other sunbathers who are also busy on their laptops, tablets, or smartphones. How much do you know about your fellow pool patrons? How much do you know about their cyber security habits, or the health of their devices? Do they have the latest anti-virus software installed on their mobile? Do they use a VPN on their laptop? Do they carry out security updates on their tablets?
When you’re connected to the public Wi-Fi, you’re sharing an open network with strangers. And that’s risky behaviour, because it only takes one compromised device to put all the other connected devices in harm’s way. Malicious infections can spread from machine to machine in seconds, and that’s something the cyber villains count on.
Stop and think before you connect!