These users are vulnerable to having their private information intercepted by anyone in the same hotspot with an ordinary laptop and some simple software, readily available for download from the web.
The Wi-Fi Alliance is urging consumers to realize that protecting their data when accessing a public wifi hotspot is their own responsibility, and that they should not rely on the hotspot or website they are accessing.
They now officially recommend that all wifi hotspot users use a personal VPN (virtual private network) to secure the privacy of their communication.
The press release stated that only 18% use a VPN when accessing a public wifi hotspot. What’s interesting is that 86% have taken steps to ensure the security of their home wifi network, yet so few of them exercise similar care in wireless hotspots. Most large companies provide VPNs for their employees who work outside the office. That probably accounts for most of the 18% that are secure.
For all others, the Wi-Fi Alliance recommends users employ a commercially available personal VPN.
In Their Own Words
In the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Articles section, they describe the facts about wifi hotspots:
“In many open networks such as convention centers, airports and other public areas, there is no security implemented at all. When you are working in a public hotspot, you cannot be confident of truly secure access. So unless you are just surfing the Internet for fun, you should use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if possible to create a secure virtual tunnel.”
In the Wi-Fi Alliance’s Frequently Asked Questions section, they describe how a personal VPN is also a good way to protect your computer from an Evil Twin attack:
“An Evil Twin… is a potential security threat to users of Wi-Fi, predominantly in public hotspots. A hacker sets up what is called a “rogue access point” which mimics the characteristics of the network to which users expect to connect. Users unknowingly connect to the rogue access point and the hacker’s network instead of the intended network. The Evil Twin hijacks data, such as passwords, account information, credit card information, etc., and then connects the user to the Internet as intended… As Wi-Fi continues to grow in reach and popularity, consumers need to make some new simple security precautions a habit, like … using a VPN.”
A VPN, such as PRIVATE WiFi™, secures and privatizes your data across the Internet by building an encrypted “tunnel.” Data passes through this tunnel, protected from any Internet criminal who tries to intercept it. Even if the data is intercepted, it is hopelessly scrambled and useless to anyone without the key to decrypt it.
A VPN also assigns you a temporary IP address which protects your privacy. An IP (or Internet Protocol) address is a numerical label that is assigned to devices participating in a computer network that uses the Internet Protocol for communication between its nodes. This IP address cannot be traced by a hacker or anyone else.
Just as consumers consider other measures to protect their computers, such as installing virus software and using a firewall, the key point from the Wi-Fi Alliance’s new recommendation is that hotspot users employ a VPN to protect their Internet communications.
About the Wi-Fi Alliance
The Wi-Fi Alliance is the leading global non-profit industry association of hundreds of companies devoted to seamless connectivity, including all major wifi providers such as T- Mobile, AT&T, and Boingo, plus Microsoft, Intel, Apple, Dell, Sony and many others. The Wi-Fi Alliance sets the standards for all wifi networks and equipment, and nearly every company involved with wifi is a member.