Home > Technology Matters > WiFi Hot Spots, Beware!

WiFi Hot Spots, Beware!

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

With more and more WiFi hot spots dotting the landscape, and word of increased WiFi hijacking, the FBI is warning people to be more watchful as they log on in public places. If you log onto an unsecured server, and don’t have suitable protection on your machine, you are vulnerable to having your WiFi transmissions intercepted. Hackers have also found a way to take advantage of a technical quirk: By default, most laptops automatically log onto the strongest signal they can find. So, a hacker sitting nearby in that coffee shop or airport terminal where you’re checking email can, by having a strong signal, trick your computer into associating with his legit-seeming network. Once you’re there, he can not only capture your private information, but can also deposit a nifty trojan or virus in return — a double-whammy.

“Businesses that offer free or ad-hoc WiFi often don’t know their networks have been breached,” states the official FBI press release. The site recommends that laptop users have up-to-date protection, such as a firewall and antivirus software. If you manage network end-users who spend a lot of time traveling, make sure that any laptop under your supervision has the default set to require users to manually select the network they’re logging into — not to automatically select the strongest signal. You can also warn your road warriors not to log on at a hotspot until they’ve learned from a sign or an employee what the real name of the network, or SSID, is. If you’re at a McDonald’s, you want the network called McDonald’s, and not the one called “Free Public WiFi” or some similar come-on.

WiFi has become a popular means making full use of tablets and smartphones. With a few precautions, your online experiences can continue to be intrusion free.

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