Most of us have almost discarded network cables and rely on wireless for connecting to other computers as well as to the Internet. The wired Internet is more secure as it reduces the chances of hackers snooping in. But wireless travels in all directions (even if you use unidirectional antennas, they branch out after a certain length). Cybercriminals can easily hack into these signals and know what you are doing. They steal your data and use it for own purposes. We have talked about problems with public WiFi as well as the dangers of using wireless Internet in the past. This post once again reminds you that you need to take certain steps to secure both home and public networks and make them secure when using WiFi.
Vulnerabilities in Public Wi-Fi
Most public places now offer free WiFi as part of providing you with a better experience. Even the railway is now giving public WiFi for free when you are on long-distance trains, not to mention airports, hotel lounges, cafes, and more. We had earlier posted about the dangers of public WiFi. Let’s be more specific here about the vulnerabilities of Public WiFi.
First of all, it is very easier to get your login credentials when on public WiFi. There are devices available that can tell the IP addresses of computers in the range using the same public WiFi, and from there, cybercriminals can carry out their operations to know what are the different users of the WiFi doing.
Not all public WiFi use encryption and even if they use one, they use weaker encryption so that all types of devices can work on the WiFi. The cybercriminals just need to be in the range of public WiFi – may be directly logged in or might be using some hacking device that shows what all is happening on the network. If a web page employs a simple text method for login, the password and ID are sent in plain text that can be easily accessed by cybercriminals.
For example, a URL like http://website.com/login.php&ID=username&password=mypassword can tell you the login credentials of the website in question.
Fix Public WiFi Vulnerabilities
There is not much you can do to fix Public WiFi vulnerabilities. Just make sure File and Printer sharing is turned off. Right-click on the Internet icon in System Tray and click on Open Network and Sharing settings. From there, go to Advanced Sharing Settings and turn off File and printer sharing.
Among other precautions,
- Never use Public WiFi for working on confidential information
- If you have to use a website that needs information about you or your credit card, try using a VPN service to encrypt the data packets; there are many free VPN services (and I prefer SpotFlux)
- Follow these WiFi Security Tips.
Home Wi-Fi Vulnerabilities
We tend to feel safer when using WiFi at home, but they too are vulnerable to brute force attacks and other forms of hacking. Among the foremost precautions you should take to fix Home WiFi vulnerabilities is to turn off WPS (WiFi Protected Setup).
Though the WPS is considered a security feature, experts urge users to turn it off as it can easily compromise your router to external attacks. You will have to open the router page and make changes there as an administer. The method to turn off WPS is different for different models of routers, so you’ll have to check with your manufacturer’s website. However, if you are good at troubleshooting, you can locate the option simply by browsing through existing tabs, etc. in the router page.
It goes without saying that the WiFi password should be strong enough. Try to use strong passwords (if you feel you will forget it, you can note it down and keep it in your purse or somewhere). Random strings of characters are best.
Finally, check to see if the security protocol being used for the handshake is WPA2. Some routers provide it as WPA/WPA2. This option too is available in the router configuration page.
If you are using Windows 10, turn off WiFi Sense so that your computer is not compromised by one of the people sharing your Internet connection.
Freeware Bitdefender Home Scanner will scan your Home Network for vulnerabilities.
This intends to serve as a general guide to Public and Home WiFi Vulnerabilities and how to fix them. Know that even with all precautions we take, there are still vulnerabilities with WiFi (or even with wired connections), but if you take the precautions, chances of you getting hacked will reduce.