It’s that time of year again – when more than 150,000 gadget geeks, techies, businesses and journalists from around the world descend on Las Vegas for the mother of all trade shows – the International Consumer Electronics Show. With over 3,200 exhibitors previewing and showcasing their high tech products, CES is the perfect place for tech enthusiasts to network. So you’d think it would be safe for attendees to connect their laptops and mobile devices to the event’s public WiFi hotspot. But you would be wrong.
Do You Know What You’re Connecting To At CES?
The fact is, events like CES can be a hot spot for hackers. Unsecure WiFi connections make it easy for cyber crooks to sniff your sensitive information without leaving any footprints. What’s more, with the high concentration of wireless enabled consumer electronic devices all connecting to the same hotspot, it’s extremely difficult to spot a hotspot network name that’s out of place or an Evil Twin using the event’s legitimate hotspot name.
In the deluge of calls, texts and emails at CES, the high competition for air time is likely to trigger frequent roaming attempts as devices experience high interference and poor performance and automatically search for better access points. Even worse, hotspot operators at the venue have almost no hope of detecting suspicious activity.
Hotel WiFi Isn’t Any More Secure Than Event WiFi
That might lead you to think it would be safer to retreat to the privacy of your hotel room to use your laptop or your mobile device. Well, think again. Hotels use the same WiFi technology as events. The truth is cyber thieves are far more interested in the confidential data transmitted over hotel WiFi hotspots than they are in the valuables left in hotel rooms. Even WiFi networks that are password protected won’t prevent any other guest connected to the same network from swiping the personal information on your device.
Hackers At Crowded Hotspots Work Just Like Pickpockets
Once you leave CES, you may be tempted to log into WiFi hotspots at the casinos, coffee shops and restaurants along the strip. But your online information won’t be secure there either. Hackers work just like pickpockets in crowded spaces. Once they’ve gained access to users’ laptops, smartphones or tablets in busy hotspots, it’s easy to harvest their victims’ credit card, bank account and confidential business information – and use it to commit identity fraud and other crimes.
Remember, public WiFi networks are just that – not private. Whether you’re connecting to a hotspot at a big event like the Consumer Electronics Show or to a hotspot at your local coffee shop, don’t gamble with your online security.
- Make sure you install firewall and anti-malware apps on your mobile devices and install app and OS updates.
- Use long strong passwords of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols and different passwords for each site. And uncheck the box that automatically saves them.
- Check before you connect to any hotspots with strange names. Ask the establishment for the name of its hotspot. Watch out for unusual variations in the logo or name of the establishment displayed on the login page. That could be a sign it’s an Evil Twin – a fake hotspot designed to steal your data.
- Don’t connect to any network name displayed with two little computer symbols. That means you’d be connecting directly to someone else’s computer, not a legitimate WiFi hotspot. There’s no way to tell whether it’s safe.
- Disable features that automatically connect your device to any available network. That will prevent you from accidentally connecting to a fake WiFi hotspot or to a stranger’s computer.
- Turn off file and printer sharing options when you’re at a hotspot.
- Turn off wireless connectivity when you’re not using it.
- Use a virtual private network like PRIVATE WiFi. VPNs protect your personal information by transmitting it through a secure tunnel which makes it invisible to hackers. That’s the only safe way to use WiFi hotspots.