Potential Risks with Event Wi-Fi
If you think about it, it really wasn’t that long ago that Wi-Fi was treated as a luxury. Unless you were in your own home, it was very rare you’d be somewhere where your phone, laptop or tablet could benefit from super-fast speeds. Nowadays, though, if a restaurant, hotel or any other business doesn’t offer reliable Wi-Fi, their reputation will pay the price. This is why so many events now offer it.. Still, like so many things in the digital age, just because you enjoy event Wi-Fi doesn’t mean it’s actually safe to use.
Hackers Love It
The reason you and I love free Wi-Fi hotspots is actually the same one hackers enjoy it so much too: no authentication protocols. For most of us, this means a something simple like Wi-Fi is made all the more convenient. In 2015, who wants to wait around for anything?
Of course, this lack of authentication requirements also makes event Wi-Fi irresistible to those with bad intentions. It gives them unfettered access to any devices on the network that aren’t secured. The bigger the event, the more opportunities these people have to victimize unsuspecting users.
Treating a Hacker like a Hotspot
In order for your device to benefit from event Wi-Fi, it must “talk” to the nearest hotspot. When this is done as intended, you get to surf the Web at blistering speeds. However, if a savvy hacker positions themselves between you and the hotspot, they will essentially take over the job of the latter. Now you could be sending all kinds of sensitive data to this stranger who will then pass it on to the hotspot, once they’ve had a look themselves, of course.
Think about all the sensitive data you could be sending a hacker by accident just by wandering around an event using your smartphone. Critical email just come in? You’ll want to reply, which may mean sharing some important information that would best be left classified.
Plan to buy something you saw at the event or otherwise make a purchase? You’ll be handing over your credit card information to this person.
Unfortunately, if you have any work to do at the event, you may also be sending this hacker data related to your various credentials, including passwords. If you give them passwords to your business network, they can take their time perusing everything your business has to offer whenever it’s convenient.
As you probably already know, one of the favorite tools in the hacker toolbox is malware. It’s proven time and time again to be a great way for collecting information or providing access to private areas.
This is yet another reason hackers love event Wi-Fi. If they can figure out a way to take control of said Wi-Fi, practically everyone using it will be vulnerable to any malware they decide to spread.
Some especially talented individuals have even hacked the connection point itself. By doing this, they could send malware that would release a pop-up window when people attempt to connect. The user would be offered some kind of upgrade that, once the user accepts it, installs further malware.
One thing you can always say about hackers is they don’t lack ingenuity. They are aggressive in their efforts to adapt, which is one of the reasons it’s so difficult to take one of them down, much less go after the whole culture.
This means you can expect to see greater problems in the future. As event Wi-Fi is more and more considered the norm, hackers will be more and more tempted to go after those who take advantage of it.
The good news is that the vast majority of hackers aren’t the mad geniuses we often imagine them to be. While they are certainly technically gifted, that hardly means they need to be a threat to all of us. Most of them go after low hanging fruit, so if you take some basic precautions, you should be able to sleep easier at night.
For one thing, you should always be using multi-factor authentication. Whether we’re talking about connecting to event Wi-Fi with your phone or using your tablet in the privacy of your own home, MFA is a user-friendly protocol that promises reliable protection.
In case you’re unfamiliar with it, MFA works a lot like your typical ID and password prompt. Traditionally, you have to enter these two credentials (or often just the password) in order to log in to use Wi-Fi, a workstation, your own computer, etc. The problem is that this is pretty weak security. A hacker could easily get their hands on that ID/password combination.
With MFA, anyone hoping to gain access to something has to provide several different pieces of information. A lot of times this involves security questions. You may only get asked two or three, but you could have provided 10 or 20. This will make hacking you so difficult that these criminals give up.
Virtual Private Networks
Virtual private networks (VPNs) have become more and more popular over the years as the risk to people’s privacy grows. As the name suggests, this is a way of connecting to an unsecured connection with so much encryption that most hackers won’t even bother trying (remember, they want to devote their energy to high-yield targets who won’t make it difficult). Essentially, it gives you the equivalent of a private network.
Like we mentioned earlier, though, a hacker could decide to get between you and the hotspot and essentially take over the latter’s responsibilities. However, even then, VPN encryption will be too much of a challenge for them. They’d have to go through a lengthy decryption process just for a chance at your information.
Event Wi-Fi and other free forms are too convenient for most of us to pass up. We shouldn’t have to either! It can make our private and professional lives so much easier. While there will always be bad people out there who want to steal your private data, thanks to VPNs with MFA, you don’t have to let them stop you from using Wi-Fi.