ESET Details the Dangers of Connecting to Free Public WiFi
Article by George Norman
On 04 Aug 2011
Having access to free WiFi hotspots is an incredibly convenient thing. With access to the internet, you can check your email, or send out an IM (instant message), check to see if how much money you have in your bank account, or just visit your favorite sites while you’re waiting to board your plane. The thing is that connecting to public WiFi poses a few security risks. ESET, company that offers antivirus software for home and business users, has recently explained what those risks are.

Here are the security risks associated with free WiFi, as detailed by ESET:
Evil twin login interception – the bad guys set up networks that resemble legitimate WiFi hotspots.
Zero-day OS/app attack attempts – the bad guys use a previously unknown exploit to attack a device.

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Sniffing – traffic passing over a network is recorded by the bad guys using computer software or hardware that can intercept and log traffic. Even if you browse on an encrypted connection (you will see HTTPS in the URL bar), the bad guys can intercept your traffic and attempt to decrypt the credentials they stole.
Data leakage (or man-in-the-middle attack) – the bad guys change network traffic and while the user thinks he’s connecting to his online bank account, he’s actually sending data to the bad guys.

Be cautious when you find a hotspot with a name that you do not recognize or with a name that closely resembles the name of the official hotspot. You should also be cautious of hotspots that do not require you to enter a password.

“The magic happens through a proxy technology, which intercepts your Wi-Fi communication, captures and stores a copy locally on the scammer's laptop, then sends your information on to a 'real' Wi-Fi hotspot. This will slow down your traffic a little, but with congested networks, it is often hard to tell if your traffic's being snooped, or if there are just many users logging in at the same time,” explained ESET researcher Cameron Camp.

ESET advises users to try out ESET Smart Security 5 (currently available as a Release Candidate) as it issues a notification when the user wants to connect to public WiFi and it also protects against the dangers association with connecting to public WiFi. ESET Smart Security 5 RC is available for download here.

Tags: ESET, Security, ESET Smart Security
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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