Wi-Fi Hotspot Security Threats

You might heard a lot about wi-fi hotspot recently, or most probably you have been using it to access Internet to do some web browsing, email checking, chatting or online shopping.

If you don’t understand what is wi-fi hotspot, then what I would say that it’s an access point set up in public area (airport, hotel, restaurant, cafe, highway, shopping mall) for you and others to join the network and access Internet. You can check out the nearest hotspots from your home here.

Although it’s easy to connect to hotspot, but do you know that it’s basically not secure to use this kind of service?

Here are the reasons why you should not simply connect your notebook or mobile device to any available public wi-fi hotspot without taking correct safety measures.

Unencrypted Wireless Data

Typically there is no encryption (WEP, WPA, WPA2, WPA3) set up on most of hotspots in order to simplify the connecting process and minimize management workload. This basically would expose all your network traffic in the wireless network. The hacker can then capture the traffic from the air by using some traffic capturing tools that easily found on Internet, that means your personal data, credit/debit card account number, online payment account and other sensitive information might be captured and misused by the hackers.

Even if there is WEP/WPA encryption key required to connect to hotspot, it would be easy for hacker to get one and capture the traffic after connecting to the network.

Evil-Twin Hotspot

Have you ever think about the wi-fi hotspot you connect at the cafe is not a legitimate access point? How about if hacker set up a fake hotspot and make it available in public and somebody end up connecting it? Yep, it is happening.

There are hackers out there setting up fake access point and pretending it’s legitimate hotspot that can be accessed by public. We call this fake hotspot as evil-twin hotspot. Whenever a user connects to this fake hotspot, the hacker might capture his/her hotspot logging information (username, password) and other sensitive information, or accessing his/her shared folders.

Vulnerable Operating System and Software

If you bring a notebook that is not patched and connect it to public wi-fi hotspot, your notebook might be compromised easily. If not, let say you do not install antivirus or the antivirus signature is not up-to-date, your might be hit by the virus/worm that usually spreading fast in public wireless network.

From other perspective, the notebook without firewall, not configured and secured properly is easily to be hacked. File sharing without correct configuration would be accessed by others as well.

Public Computer Threat

Sometimes you would see there are public computers set up at hotspot for you to access Internet, but be alerted that key-loggers may be installed to capture all your keystrokes.

The other issue is your browsing history would be cached and others who use it later would know the site you visited. The worst case is you leave the login credential on the computer after saving it in login page.

Notebook Physical Security

Notebooks are popular targets for thieves! This is especially easy in public area with lot of people. Sometimes you might not even aware that your notebook is stolen until your leaving or alerted by others. If your notebook is stolen, you are not only suffering from financial loses, but also losing your important data stored on the notebook.

Ok.. Now let's check out here on how to connect public wi-fi hotspot securely.

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