I have a love-hate relationship with WiFi. On one hand, it’s magically awesome. On the other hand, it’s invisible. The latter is where things can get murky.
In a nutshell, when you turn on your WiFi device, it’s looking for a previously connected network – your home, your office, the local coffee shop, the airport, and any other location you’ve EVER connected wirelessly. Your computer is essentially asking – Hey, Starbucks, you here? No? Hey, PHX Airport, you here? No? And it will continue going down the list of previously connected networks until it finds a network that responds or you attach to a new network. When we’re in familiar locations, we turn on our computer and if it works, we don’t even think about it.
Now let’s say I had a device that could pretend to be any network. And when your computer asks for the coffee shop, the airport, your home, or your work, my device masquerades as that network. That device can be purchased for $100. It’s very popular and its designed purpose is wireless auditing but it can also be used with malicious intent.
If you’ve heard the term Man in the Middle (MiTM), this is it. This wireless auditing device is connected to a Wifi network, your laptop connects to it, you are able to access the Internet so, hypothetically, you’re none the wiser. With this scenario, a bad actor can perform attacks against your computer, they can manipulate your traffic, and they can do bad things. This is not new. I bring it up because there was a recent report listing the 10 most vulnerable airports:
PHX ranking in at #7 for the Most Vulnerable.
So does this mean we should stop using the WiFi at PHX? No. You should, however, take some steps, not just in PHX, we should do this everywhere:
1. Clean up previously connected networks. If you’ve traveled to another city, connected to the hotel WiFi, and you’re not heading back to this location in the very near future, remove the network.
2. When you connect to a WiFi network, whether it’s a new or a previously connected network, double check the name of the network to verify you’re on the network you think you’re on.
3. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) with full tunnel mode. A bit of nerd speak here but we’re basically taking all of our network traffic and we’re securely tunneling it out a known and trusted network.
Will this guarantee your safety? No. But it makes you a much harder target and an attacker will probably move on to an easier victim.
If you need assistance with cleaning up your WiFi connections, VPN solutions, or any of our other services, please feel free to reach out to us through the Contact page.