Protecting your information on free Wi-Fi

Cybersafe

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — From motels to cafes, it seems every public place offers free Wi-Fi for their guests. But connecting to those free Wi-Fi points could expose you and your information.

Experts say never trust free Wi-Fi because if you can connect, that means any one can connect to it. That means other devices can detect your devices and see what is on them.

One way to protect yourself on free Wi-Fi is using a VPN, or virtual private network, which acts like a secure tunnel between your device and the website or app you’re using. But IT professional say the best protection is staying off public Wi-Fi.

“Using your cellular data on your phone as much as possible, try not to use public Wi-Fi because you just don’t know who else is on it. Don’t use passwords, don’t use login information to get into websites, don’t go to banking websites and use your information to log in,”says John Hadden, IT Project Manager at Thompson Innovation.

One simple thing to protect your data on Wi-Fi is to keep devices up to date on all security and software updates.

The Identity Theft Resource Center warns consumers about several common attacks that use public Wi-Fi:

  1. Software sniffers: these programs allow hackers to passively intercept data sent between your web browser and web servers on the Internet. Sniffers are available for free online. VPNs are the only way to protect your information from this type of attack.
  2. Sidejacking: the attacker uses a more specialized type of sniffers to steal a session cookie from a website you just visited. Cookies often contain passwords and other private information.
  3. ARP Spoofing: Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) spoofing, is a technique used to attack a wireless network. ARP spoofing allows an attacker to sniff traffic on a local-area network (LAN) and modify or stop the traffic altogether. ARP spoofing sends fake, or “spoofed”, ARP messages to a LAN which associates the attacker’s MAC address with the IP address of the victim. This attack can only occur on networks that make use of ARP and not another method of address resoluton.

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