Why Public WiFi Is Insecure?

For many individuals, having access to free internet while on the road appears to be perfect. However, there are more dangers than you may know when utilising public WiFi.

Many locations now provide free public WiFi. As an extra benefit of using their services, airports, hotels, and coffee shops all advertise free internet access. For many individuals, being able to connect to the internet for free while on the road appears to be perfect. This would be especially handy for business travellers who can now access their work emails and exchange documents through the internet.

However, there are more hazards associated with utilising public WiFi connections than many internet users understand, the majority of them are tied to Man in the Middle attacks.

Attack by the Man in the Middle

When a hostile actor succeeds to intercept communication between two parties, this is known as a Man in the Middle (MitM) attack. There are several sorts of MitM attacks, but one of the most prevalent involves intercepting a user's request to access a website and responding with a phoney webpage that appears to be authentic. This may happen to any website, including online banking, file sharing, and email services.

If Alice tries to access her email and a hacker intercepts the traffic between her device and the email provider, the hacker can use a MitM attack to trick her into visiting a phoney website. If the hacker obtains Alice's login and password, he may use her email to carry out additional harmful activities, such as sending phishing emails to Alice's contacts.

As a result, the Man in the Middle is a third party who, while posing as a genuine middleman, may intercept data transferred between two places. MitM attacks are most commonly used to get people to submit sensitive information into a false website, but they may also be used to just intercept a private chat.

Eavesdropping on WiFi

WiFi eavesdropping is a type of MitM attack in which a hacker exploits a public WiFi network to spy on everyone who connects to it. Personal data, as well as trends in internet traffic and surfing, may be intercepted.

Typically, this is accomplished by building a phoney WiFi network with a convincing name. The name of the bogus hotspot is sometimes identical to that of a neighbouring shop or organisation. The Evil Twin technique is another name for this.

For example, a customer may walk into a coffee shop and notice three WiFi networks with identical names: CoffeeShop, CoffeeShop1, and CoffeeShop2. At least one of these is likely to be a fraudster's WiFi.

Hackers can use this approach to collect data from any device that connects to the internet, allowing them to steal login passwords, credit card information, and other sensitive information.

WiFi eavesdropping is only one of the dangers that come with utilising public networks, therefore it's best to avoid them altogether. If you really must use public WiFi, ensure that it is legitimate and secure by asking an employee.

Sniffing Packets

Criminals have been known to utilise particular computer programmes to intercept data. Packet sniffers are tools that are commonly used by respectable IT experts to capture digital network traffic and make it easier for them to spot and evaluate issues. Within private enterprises, these tools are also used to track internet surfing trends.

Many of these packet analyzers, on the other hand, are used by hackers to collect sensitive data and carry out unlawful operations. Even if nothing appears to be wrong at first, victims may subsequently discover that they have been the victim of identity theft or that their company's secret information has been disclosed in some way.

Theft of Cookies and Session Hijacking

In a nutshell, cookies are little data packets that web browsers acquire from websites in order to save surfing information. These data packets are generally saved locally on the user's computer (as text files) so that the website recognises them when they return.

Cookies are helpful because they allow users and the websites they visit to communicate more easily. Cookies, for example, allow users to stay signed in without having to re-enter their credentials each time they visit a website. Online stores may also use them to keep track of things that consumers have previously put to their shopping carts or to monitor their browsing habits.

Cookies can't carry a keylogger or malware because they're just text files, therefore they won't affect your machine. Cookies, on the other hand, might be risky in terms of privacy and are frequently utilised in MitM attacks.

Malicious actors can use the cookies you use to communicate with websites against you if they are able to intercept and steal them. This is known as Cookies Theft, and it's typically linked to Session Hijacking.

An attacker can impersonate the victim and contact with websites on their behalf if a session hijacking is successful. This means they may access personal emails or other websites that may contain sensitive information using the victim's current session. Because public WiFi hotspots are simpler to monitor and considerably more vulnerable to MitM attacks, session hijacking is prevalent.

How can you defend yourself against MitM attacks?

1. Disable any settings that allow your device to connect to accessible WiFi networks automatically.

2. Log out of any accounts you aren't using and turn off file sharing.

3. Wherever feasible, use password-protected WiFi networks. If you have no choice but to utilise a public WiFi network, avoid sending or accessing important information.

4. Always keep your operating system and antivirus software up to date.

5. When utilising public networks, avoid any financial activities, including bitcoin transactions.

6. Use websites that employ the HTTPS protocol. However, be in mind that some hackers use HTTPS spoofing, so this protection isn't completely failsafe.

7. It's usually a good idea to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), especially if you need to access sensitive or business-related data.

8. Fake WiFi networks should be avoided at all costs. Don't trust a WiFi network's name just because it sounds like a business or corporation. If you're unsure, ask a member of the staff to verify the network's validity. You might also inquire if they have a secure network that you could use.

9. If you're not using WiFi or Bluetooth, turn them off. If you don't need to connect to a public network, don't.

Final Thoughts

Cybercriminals are continually seeking for new ways to gain access to people's data, so staying informed and cautious is critical. We've gone through a few of the various dangers that public WiFi networks may pose. Although the majority of those threats may be minimised simply by utilising a password-protected connection, it is critical to understand how these assaults operate and how to avoid becoming the next victim.

credit: Binance Academy