If you watch HBO’s Silicone Valley you may have seen how on the show they used WiFi Pineapples to hack into a tech conference’s WiFi and have their Pied Piper software collect the attendee data they needed. Sure it’s only a TV show but WiFi Pineapples are real and super accessible (they cost about $100 a piece). Though it’s highly unlikely a massive tech conference would have such flimsy network security and other protocols in place, this is a good opening to talk to your staff about their real life public WiFi usage and data security. In real life, it’s actually pretty common for hackers to take advantage of large scale public networks like the ones in, hotels and shopping malls.
Public WiFi connections are readily available in most places today and they can make life so much easier. But common doesn’t equate to secure and not all free WiFis are created equal. It’s actually very easy for a hacker to pick up your credentials just by being on the same network. Of course the best protection can be just to avoid connecting to public WiFi completely and just use your phone’s data. But if you don’t want to use data on your smartphone to connect or tether your PC to, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Gauge which connections available to you, airport or shopping mall WiFi connections are potentially more risky that your neighborhood coffee shop or small chain retailer. Large or high traffic networks are also at more risk for hackers who use WiFi Pineapples to redirect them to their fake network. Be wary when scanning for a connection and you see similar WiFi network names pop up. If you’re device is ever connected to a pineapple they try and intercept your information. You can prevent this by only using HTTPS pages since they can see everything you do when connected to HTTP.
- On top of using HTTPS, make sure you have SSL enabled for all applications that access the internet.
- Always pick a connection that requires you to enter a password. These types of connections will have at least a basic level of encryption. On a totally open network, anyone can see everything you’re doing.
- Three letters: VPN. With the FCC’s privacy rulings being recently overturned, VPNs should be used whenever possible, even while at home or in the office.
- Turn off file sharing and printer sharing. If you have it turned on, you’re just making it that much easier for a hacker to slip in and look at your personal information or possibly plant some malware.
- Common sense, just use it. Blogs, new sites, general browsing is fine. Feel like doing some online shopping or banking? Forget it, just wait until your back in a trusted WiFi network.
- If you’re on a laptop, make sure your firewall is enabled.
- Keep your antivirus and antimalware up to date on all devices.
If you need help double checking any device settings, make sure you reach out to us for additional counsel.