Subscribe to our mailing list

X

An Expert Shares the Dangers of Public Wi-Fi

By on April 20, 2018

Public, free Wi-Fi is a convenience that most of us appreciate, but you shouldn’t be blinded by their too-good-to-be-true appeal. Using public Wi-Fi networks might just be one of the riskiest, tech-related mistakes you make on a regular basis.

Scott N. Schober, the President and CEO of Berkley Varitronics Systems (BVS), author, and well-informed cyber security expert, believes that public Wi-Fi networks are, in fact, dangerous to access.

Schober explains, “when you access most public Wi-Fi, you enter into a temporary relationship with that provider whereby you trade your privacy for convenience. Open Wi-Fi access points are sometimes subsidized by collecting and selling metadata relating to all consumer activity including purchasing habits, dwell time in the store and even the specific devices used to connect to that open Wi-Fi. You might not care about sharing this metadata but advertisers certainly do.”

Recurring risks

According to Schober, the shared metadata can be used to a criminal’s advantage. He explains that “this data is extremely valuable because it provides vital information that acts as pieces in a larger puzzle profile that targets you. When properly sorted, this profile can reveal daily patterns including our daily routines, habits, contacts, social posts, and of course, our purchases. Now imagine that when you approach each store, someone is shadowing you and taking notes on everything you did with your smartphone while near that store. It is enough to freak out most consumers, but that is essentially what we are doing. By allowing one Wi-Fi to collect and sell this metadata, we are unwittingly opting into targeting and tracking programs similar to Google or Facebook’s advertising programs. Citizens have the right to protect their own privacy, but cannot truly protect themselves if they are not even aware they are being targeted.”

Frequency of theft

Many people may think that public Wi-Fi network risks are rare, most likely because they haven’t noticed any negative consequences from connecting to public Wi-Fi. To Schober, the risks are “like fishing in a barrel” as in “high traffic areas are prime targets for hackers and very likely to include fake hotspots that can compromise our devices. These are called Man-in-the-Middle attacks because the hacker’s access point pretends to be a known public hotspot. And there is nothing to stop hackers from naming these deceptive hotspots by the same or similar names to trusted ones such as ‘Free Wi-Fi Starbucks’. So when customers scan the list of possible Wi-Fi connections, they might simply just choose the first one they recognize in a long list. That means they have now just connected to the hacker’s hotspot revealing commonly used login credentials, their email and perhaps all the data on their phone.”

READ  Western Union Refunds Scam Alert

Schober adds that the one connection made to the hotspot may not be your last. He says, “to make matters worse, as a convenience feature, most phones automatically reconnect to known hotspots by default every time you are back in the area so hackers can get repeat business from their victims.”

The bigger problem

Regarding the degree of theft that can come from using public Wi-Fi networks, Schober shares that “public Wi-Fi is a stepping stone to much greater data theft.” Adding that “while only a few items such as frequently used passwords and emails can be easily gleaned from a casual public Wi-Fi connection, the real payoff usually results from the introduction of malware onto the device. Once a hacker has a direct connection to your mobile device via malware, they have access to most anything on that device. But their reach can extend far beyond that device as well. Depending on how they compromise your phone, a hacker can then gain entry into your PC at home and eventually all data including financial, personal, healthcare, and even friends’ and family’s data too.” All of which makes public Wi-Fi a worrisome threat.

What to do if you are a victim

If you have reasonable evidence to believe that you have been victimized because of your public Wi-Fi network connections, Schober instructs that “you should first delete all Wi-Fi networks listed on your mobile device so you do not automatically re-connect to them when you are nearby. If you know the name of suspicious hotspot, alert the nearest retailer also offering public Wi-Fi since most of their customers would potentially be affected by this same hotspot as well. If any legitimate retailer believes their customers could be in jeopardy, they will take action.”

He recommends that you “use your own 4G LTE hot spot or host one from your secure 4G smartphone. If you suspect your devices has already been compromised, be sure to erase and re-install your phone OS completely and do not use a recent backup that might contain cookies, browser history or any code that might contain the malware such as key loggers. Effective anti-keyloggers such as StrikeForces’ MobileTrust can be purchased from Amazon or directly from their website https://www.strikeforcecpg.com. I use these products and have found them to be simple and effective defenses against keyloggers.”

READ  Resolving Debt with Synchrony Bank

How to avoid becoming a victim

Although there are many legitimate Wi-FI networks, avoiding connection to a public Wi-Fi network is a good way to protect yourself and your data. Schober recommends “that people consider a 4G LTE hotspot to avoid the privacy pitfalls associated with open Wi-Fi. A modulated LTE signal is unlikely to be hacked or spoofed and much safer then using any open Wi-Fi. Modern smartphone OS include integrated Wi-Fi tethering plans so you can host your own Wi-Fi hotspot. Just make sure you use a long and strong password so you can connect any of your devices securely to your smartphone.”

If protecting your privacy is important to you, prevention is the key. Although avoiding public Wi-Fi networks altogether is a solid preventative step, there are many other ways a thief could steal your private information and even your identity. Hiring a professional identity theft protection service might also prove to be a good move on your end. After all, your data, information, and identity are worth protecting, especially as cyber crimes are becoming more frequent.

This article by Alayna Pehrson first appeared on Best Company and was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

The post An Expert Shares the Dangers of Public Wi-Fi appeared first on Personal Finance Syndication Network.

Last step, fill out the information below or call us for Priority Assistance.

What problems are you having with your report?

Your first name is required. Your first name is required to be at least 2 characters. Your first name cannot be longer than 50 characters.
Your last name is required. Your last name is required to be at least 2 characters. Your last name cannot be longer than 50 characters.
Your email is required.
Your phone is required. Your 10 digit phone number is required.
Your state is required.
Your age is required. Your age must be greater than 18. Your age must be less than 100.

By clicking on the "Contact Me" button above, you consent, acknowledge, and agree to the following: Our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy and to receive electronic communications. We take your privacy seriously. That you are providing express "written" consent for Debt.com or appropriate service provider(s) to call you (including through automated means; e.g. autodialing, text and pre-recorded messaging) via telephone, mobile device (including SMS and MMS - charges may apply), even if your telephone number is currently listed on any internal, corporate, state or federal Do-Not-Call list. Consent is not required as a condition to utilize Debt.com services and you are under no obligation to purchase anything.

By clicking on the “Contact me” button above, you consent, acknowledge, and agree to the following: (1)That you are providing express “written” consent for Lexington Law Firm, Debt.com or appropriate service provider(s) to call you (including through automated means; e.g. autodialing, text and pre-recorded messaging) via telephone, mobile device (including SMS and MMS – charges may apply), or dialed manually, at my residential or cellular number, even if your telephone number is currently listed on any internal, corporate, state or federal Do-Not-Call list; and (2)Lexington Law’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Use and Debt.com’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Consent is not required as a condition to utilize Lexington Law or Debt.com services and you are under no obligation to purchase anything.

About Research Department

Here is where you will find important stories located from around the web which can impact you and your financial life.
%d bloggers like this: