Public Wi-Fi: A Blessing and a Curse
How often do you use public Wi-Fi? Probably more than you think.
We’ve known for a long time that unsecured Wi-Fi networks are a serious vulnerability in the tech world. But just how serious of a risk are they? Recently Steve Henn from NPR conducted his own internet security experiment to find out.
He implanted a device called a Pwn Plug onto his network, which is a small computer that maintains a covert backdoor to the network and tunnels through firewalls and IPS’ to expose security threats, and then waited for the security vulnerabilities on his mobile phone to be revealed.
Just seconds after connecting, and with no physical contact between him and the phone, Steve’s phone became a tidal wave of information. Pings from Google, Apple and Yahoo, then Twitter and Facebook all sprang to life and gushed personal information that was now available to any curious hackers on the network.
The root of the problem? Unsecured public Wi-Fi.
It turns out that when Wi-Fi is enabled on your smartphone, it sends out a ping every few seconds looking for available networks. When it finds and connects to an open network, everything you are logged into on the device logs in again. These few seconds are all a well-prepared hacker needs to gain access to your files and passwords.
With 750% growth in out-of-home Wi-Fi sessions in the past year, and the expectation that the frequency of these sessions will continue to rise with ever-increasing mobile use, it’s important to be safe about what data we send, when we send it and how it is sent outside of protected private networks.
Luckily, a few quick and easy steps are all it takes to dramatically improve your mobile security on public Wi-Fi networks:
- Shut off the auto-connect Wi-Fi setting on your phone
- Simply turn off Wi-Fi entirely when in public
- Only connect to trusted Wi-Fi networks
- Don’t discuss highly classified or sensitive information in open areas
However, to communicate private and sensitive data while using a public network, use a mobile communications security solution, like Koolspan’s TrustCall, to encrypt your phone calls and messaging.