OPEN WIFI – Free is not safe

  • Date: April 2, 2018
  • Author: Scott Young - Network Analyst

Everyone enjoys the open guest network provided by restaurants or other public locations.  Why not jump on and save your precious cell phone data? 

When you connect to your home Wi-Fi network using a passphrase the traffic between your phone, laptop, or tablet is encrypted.  What that means is even if your neighbor is within range of your Wi-Fi they cannot see the webpages you are viewing.

The open nature of the guest network opens you and everyone using it to malicious activity by others.  Generally, these networks are unencrypted.   If you do not need to enter a passphrase to connect to the Wi-Fi most likely it is not encrypted.   Without encryption your wireless traffic is open to everyone to view.   You cannot see this traffic with eyes or special glasses.  Applications like Firesheep is an easy to use tool which allows snooping on open Wi-Fi networks.  There is also an advanced tool called Wireshark to capture and analyze wireless network traffic.  Websites that are available over https versus http will have encryption, as the ‘S” stands for Secure.  The browser extension HTTPS Everywhere can help with this by redirecting to encrypted pages.

One of the ways attackers trick people is by using a honeypot network.  This is where they create an open Wi-Fi network that tricks people into thinking they are connected to a public Wi-Fi network.  It is actually their own network created to steal information from your device.

Protect yourself by not doing online banking or accessing sensitive data on an open wi-fi network.  Use https pages only while using open Wi-Fi networks.  If you are forced to use open wi-fi, a VPN may be a good investment.  Attackers would be able to see you are on a VPN connection but not what you are doing.  When connecting be sure to select the “Public” connection.  This will lock down your windows firewall so windows are not sharing files or sensitive data. 

If you are interested in creating a public and private network for your business, contact the ReadiTech team at 344-5000 or toll free at 877-559-4692.