CSID, a company that offers identity protection for businesses, released a white paper entitled “When Good Technology Goes Bad: Evolution of Mobile Technology,” which describes how our culture has been completely transformed by mobile technology and public WiFi networks.
We have access to more information than any time in history, and can easily stay in touch with friends and family. The cost of mobile technology has plummeted, meaning that more and more people have access to mobile phones, tablets, and other devices.
While this mobile revolution is undeniably positive, this revolution in mobile technology is not all good. Case in point: anyone who uses a public WiFi network is at risk from a man-in-the-middle attack. Unfortunately, few public WiFi users know about or understand this risk.
CSID urges users to protect themselves from a man-in-the-middle attack by being careful when logging on to public WiFi networks and by using a VPN to encrypt all of their data.
Who is this Man-in-the-Middle?
A man-in-the-middle attack happens when a hacker with a $20 router and an ordinary computer inserts himself between you and the web server you are trying to access. You think you are simply logging into a safe public WiFi network but actually you are logging into the router of the attacker. See the illustration below.
Man-in-the-middle attackers like public WiFi networks because there are so many of them and so many of us login to them. By 2015, there will be 5.8 million public WiFi hotspots available around the world, up from 1.3 million in 2011.
Public WiFi hotspots are also favorites of hackers because 34% of users take no special measures to protect themselves when they are accessing them. Because there is no encryption on public WiFi networks, it’s very simple to intercept all user data sent over the network. So if you buy something online or log in to your online bank account while unknowingly connected to a man-in-the-middle, the attacker has access to all of this private financial information.
A man-in-the-middle attacker can also send you to fake sites made to look like real ones that can steal your login and financial information.
How to Stay Safe
So what can you do to stay safe while using public WiFi networks? CSID has the following suggestions:
- Be aware: Use common sense when on the Internet. New attacks are released every day.
- Treat all public WiFi links with suspicion: It’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between a safe and an unsafe network. Best to treat them all with suspicion.
- When using public WiFi, avoid doing anything sensitive: Don’t buy anything, login to your financial accounts, or even send email when accessing public WiFi networks. Wait until you get back home to your secure network to do those kinds of things. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Make sure you are using antivirus software: It’s not a foolproof solution, but antivirus software can help repel most known attacks. Be sure to keep it updated.
- Think about using identity protection and monitoring services: This is a great way to protect yourself and your family from identity theft.
- Use a VPN: A VPN like PRIVATE WiFi allows you to use public WiFi networks as if they were private and secure. A VPN is a good solution to possible man-in-the-middle attacks if you must use public WiFi.