Wireless internet brings along a plethora of advantages such as convenience, anytime, anywhere access to the web, mobility, expandability, and reduced costs (as multiple devices can be connected to the wireless network simultaneously without inviting additional costs or bills), boosted productivity, and ease of deployment. But Wi-Fi isn’t all about the benefits only, there are some cons also and each user must know about the threats associated with the use of Wi-Fi.
Many employees use the public Wi-Fi hotspots to access their official emails and work networks, despite the presence of a risk that hackers may intercept sensitive information, including their login credentials. Most employees aren’t wary of the security threats associated with the wireless networks and that lurk in public places, such as railway stations, coffee shops, etc. As a result, they don’t bother about the precautions and often fall prey to online muggers. Even employees who exercise precautions and are aware of these security threats tend to ignore these risks.
As per the survey conducted by Symantec a few years ago about 55% of the respondents said they would not think for a while before connecting to a free Wi-Fi hotspot if the signal quality appeared good whereas about 45% they would prefer connecting to an open, free Wi-Fi to waiting for the password for secure access. A vast majority of these respondents also believed public wireless hotspots to be safe and secure to the extent that they wouldn’t mind accessing their financial information including their online banking portal, read emails, etc. but there were many who were aware of the Wi-Fi threats. Millennials tend to have a casual approach to web browsing and use of Wi-Fi, which eventually puts them at the highest risk of being duped by online predators.
Having said all this about the security threats, it is important to have a quick discussion about what all security threats do exist for those accessing the Wi-Fi internet at public places. It is important for employers to provide security awareness training to their employees so the workforce becomes more aware of the security and risks. Employees need to be guided and trained about identifying the attempts of phishing, risks from ransomware and malware and educated about the threats that public, FREE Wi-Fi networks bring along.
1. Rogue Wi-Fi Hotspots: Cybercriminals find it the easiest way to rob people of their sensitive information. Setting up an evil-twin hotspot, which is a fake wireless access point camouflaged as the legitimate Wi-Fi access point, for example, the ones your local hotel or coffee shop may offer. They may use popular names such as “Starbuck FREE Wi-Fi” or maybe only use the name of the shop/establishment. Now you share information using such a hotspot and your predators will quickly intercept it.
2. File-Sharing: Nany people enable file sharing on their mobiles and other devices to share files in the office and at home for the sake of ease and convenience. Hackers abuse this by connecting to the devices that are connected to Wi-Fi hotspots. The hackers can easily abuse this feature to install and drop malware and ransomware on devices when it’s connected to a hotspot.
3. Packet Sniffers: Using these, a hacker can easily identify, monitor, and intercept web traffic over unsafe wireless networks and then capture personal & sensitive information (including your login credentials to corporate emails, bank accounts, etc.). After obtaining these credentials, the hackers can gain complete control of an account, thereby leaving you helpless and sometimes not even aware of what happened.
4. Shoulder Surfing: While you might use the strongest passwords and ensure not to fall prey to online predators, some threats may be moving right around you! Yes, shoulder surfing or looking over the shoulder of someone using the internet and keying in sensitive information on their device is one of the easiest and commonest methods of obtaining sensitive information. While you may think that no one would understand the masked passwords that you typed (because they weren’t visible on the screen) but cybercriminals are so clever that they may observe your keyboard to work out the password you just typed.
5. Ransomware and Malware:When you connect to a work or home network, anti-malware software/control is often installed but these protections don’t exist on public Wi-Fi hotspots. Hence, malware can be easily installed on your device if it doesn’t have the protection of web filters and anti-virus software.
Businesses can minimize the risk by ensuring their employees are comprehensively training about the various risks associated with the use of open, free, public Wi-Fi hotspots and ensure that the employees connect to the open Wi-Fi hotspots only if they use a VPN. Installing some cloud software on your employees’ devices can also help protect them from unexpected and certainly unsolicited cyberattacks. The providers of hotspots can protect their customers by ensuring the safety and security of their Wi-Fi hotspots.
To conclude, I believe while the internet has made our lives easier and better than ever before – by allowing us to stay connected anytime, anywhere. No longer do we need to stand in the queues just to pay our bills, shop in the crowded malls, and go out in the scorching heat or bitterly cold weather! Today, we can do thousands of things online that required too much effort and time earlier. But if you are not exercising precautions while using this amazing convenience, the consequences may be beyond your worst and weirdest of imagination. Hence, whenever you feel attracted to free wireless networks, make sure they are safe too, and that your device is ready for combating the issues that may jump in. Also, make sure you don’t open and browse sensitive content and websites while connected through open Wi-Fi.
Disclaimer: The information above is only for the sake of knowledge You may discuss your wireless needs and precautions to be taken while connected to the Wi-Fi with our wireless experts for better, updated, and improved knowledge.
Blogger & Writer from Dallas, Texas
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