Beware of Rogue WiFi Hotspots

wifiMost handheld devices now have the ability to connect via WiFi. For this reason it’s very easy to find WiFi hotspots scattered all over the place. If you are traveling, sitting on a coffee shop or simply taking a break on a bench somewhere, you will be surprised at the number of WiFi network connections you will see on your list of available networks. Just like anything free, a wireless internet connection that offers free access is quite hard to resist.

However, nothing is every free in this world and sadly, more often than not there is a catch in these offers. A coffee shop offers a “free” WiFi service as a marketing strategy so people will buy their coffee; restaurants do the same as well. On a more creepy note, there are also Rogue WiFi networks or also called Rogue Access Point, which are those not associated with a place you are currently in that offer free, public and sometimes even faster internet connection.

In recent years, online security experts have found several hacking schemes where cyber criminals use rogue WiFi hotspots to lure people into using their service and then using the connection to hack into the unsuspecting users’ laptop or mobile device. WiFi security has become a serious concern over the years, making unsuspecting mobile computing folk vulnerable to attack. You may think that there is nothing to steal in your computer or smartphone but you will be surprised at what hackers can do with your personal information.

Often the trouble in falling for a rogue WiFi connection is the user’s inability to tell what a legit network is and what a malicious one is. Here are a few simple steps to take so you can protect your device from a rogue hotspot.

  • Verify the SSID or Network ID of your connection with somebody in-charge. If for example you are at a coffee shop, ask the barista for the exact SSID and the password if it requires one. Make sure you are getting the correct spelling as well, since hackers can use a wireless network name very similar to what the coffee shop is using to confuse and lure users. If the location you are on uses “thecoffeeshop” the rogue WiFi could easily be named “thecofffeeshop” .
  • Steer Clear of unencrypted networks since they also mean unprotected. An unencrypted connection means that the data coming and going from your mobile to the network can be seen or snooped into by others within the network’s range. The only time you would want to use an unencrypted public WiFi is when you have your own secure VPN. If you absolutely must use public WiFi, stick to going to news or wiki websites and avoid those where you use your personal information like checking email, social networks or banking websites.
  • Check your device WiFi settings, most devices are set to automatically detect and connect wireless connections. Set your mobile device to ask your permission before connecting to any WiFi connection just to be on the safe side.

Learn more about Wireless Network Security from our other posts.