It might sound crazy, but it’s actually rather simple for some cyberpunk to drive to where you live or work, park out front, and put up cellphone antenna aimed at your home or office to hack your cell phone conversations, text messages, even emails. Think it’s not so simple? Think again, says CEO Kent Lawson, so check out his latest post exploring a few new “distressingly fragile” mobile trends you need to know about.
First Came the Oil Spill: BP Loses Laptop Containing 13,000 Social Security Numbers of Gulf Coast Victims
A new ComputerWorld article calls it “inexcusable” and points out that “it’s surprising that even companies the size of BP don’t encrypt their laptops as a matter of course these days.” This follows the news that a BP employee recently lost his laptop on a business trip – which contained unencrypted personal data such as names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth belonging to about 13,000 people who had submitted claims with the company related to last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
You’ve heard VPN used several times, but do you REALLY know how it works? In this latest “Ask the Expert” series, Private WiFi’s CEO Kent Lawson explains what a virtual private network really does to ensure your computer safety, particularly at your most vulnerable moments — using the Internet in WiFi hotspots such as a coffee shop, hotel room, or airport lounge.
In light of last week’s drama over “Google-4-Doodle”– in which the search giant was questioned for alleged privacy violations by collecting kids’ personal information – more people are discussing what privacy protections are needed to protect kids. This article on PaidContent says “Google should be careful about not collecting more data than it needs, especially in projects unrelated to its core business,” and also mentions last year’s Google WiFi “spying” scandal. Most importantly, it notes that “the remarkable fact about that ongoing scandal is that the only data Google collected was unencrypted data going over public networks. If anything, Google did us a favor by reminding us that public WiFi networks aren’t secure. Any hacker with some rudimentary software can sit outside a coffee shop and collect the data of users at such a location, and possibly use it for nefarious purposes.”
The New York Times has published an article discussing the various issues this very website is dedicated to promoting, including data privacy breaches, hack attacks, encryption, public WiFi threats, identity theft, passwords, and other similar worries about our online safety and privacy. We applaud the New York Times for bringing these issues to light. There is still much work to be done, however, as the problem is multi-pronged and we’ve literally only scratched the surface.
Some surprising results are out from a new survey about WiFi security: while 32% of Americans say they have borrowed a neighbor’s WiFi connection, another 40% say they would be more likely to trust someone with their house key than with their WiFi network password. And more than 25% say sharing their WiFi network password feels more personal than sharing their toothbrush. The results are featured in this article from USA Today, which also details simple steps to encrypt your home’s WiFi network and how to stay safe while at airports, cafes, and other locations with public WiFi connections.
Like the controversial Firesheep, a new hack shows the insecurity of wireless networks by sending out a jamming signal that blocks 3G connections, tricking some smartphones into automatically downgrading to a vulnerable 2G protocol. The problem is that this is a trick for hackers to possibly steal your data. As this Forbes blog points out, it can be used to “intercept the data sent to and from smartphones that run Android, iOS, Windows Mobile and other operating systems, practically any laptop or tablet that can connect to the Internet via a 2G cell connection, or spy on surveillance cameras or industrial control systems that use those connections.” The Forbes article adds that this hack can be defeated by simply using an encrypted connection.
Think your home wireless network is safe from intruders? Maybe or maybe not. For cybercrooks intent on stealing your valuables, an unsecured wireless connection can make WiFi hacking a lot easier than breaking and entering.
This is the first “Ask the Expert” column in which Private WiFi CEO and computer security expert Kent Lawson responds to readers’ questions. This column will be an ongoing, monthly series, and this inaugural column discusses VPNs and their importance in staying protected online.
Thanks to Firesheep, even novice hackers without any special skills –- you, your grandmother, your 10-year-old nephew — can spy on anyone’s Internet activity in a WiFi hotspot. That means your activities on sites lacking proper encryption — including Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and FourSquare — are at risk.