24 Mar Expert Jon Cartu Says – Dangers of Unknown Wi-Fi Networks During the Coronavirus…
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the world quite significantly in a very short time, especially in terms of working conditions and the availability of certain services. Millions of people around the globe are now being allowed to work from home, which means they spend much more time on the Internet.
To make matters even more interesting, the various quarantine and social isolation methods put in place by governments result in people staying inside for extended periods. Obviously, there’s not much to do at home that doesn’t involve an Internet connection, be it gaming, watching TV shows on streaming platforms, or consuming content on various news websites and social media platforms.
While this sounds fine and dandy in theory, the problem is that many more people are now being exposed to various online threats, given the fact that their company’s firewalls or Internet filters no longer protect them. Not only that, but there are also a lot of disinformation going around right now, which makes things even worse.
Besides, Wi-Fi networks have to handle the bulk of this traffic surge, given the fact that most people have to work on laptops, which are designed to be mobile and not require a cable connection. Unfortunately, there are a lot of risks and dangers associated with Wi-Fi networks, which is why it’s a good idea to read on the subject and document yourself regarding the best practices and the most common security issues.
Before worrying about what could happen if you connect to an unfamiliar Wi-Fi network, it would be a good idea to avoid doing so entirely. In essence, your risk factor should be much lower considering the circumstances, given the fact that you are most likely not going out to coffee shops, hotels, or restaurants these days, where hackers are usually most active.
However, your devices at home can pick up Wi-Fi signals from all around your apartment building, some of which may be malicious. If you own a router and an Internet connection, then there really shouldn’t be any reason to connect to any other networks, and it’s also wise to set up your devices to never auto-connect to open networks either.
In fact, this should be one of the first steps when trying to secure your devices, since many phones and tablets automatically connect to the first hotspot that doesn’t require a password. Hence, it’s definitely worth the time to check all of your settings and make sure that you are only using your network, which eliminates all the other associated headaches as well.
However, if you are still curious about the dangers of unknown Wi-Fi networks, here is what can happen if you don’t take the necessary precautions.
Hackers Can Steal Your Passwords and Data
The way Wi-Fi scams work is pretty simple: Your device connects to the network, you start browsing the Internet and inputting passwords or other account credentials, and all of your traffic is relayed to the attacker’s computer in the background. Naturally, the technical aspects are a bit more complicated. Still, it’s really not that hard for someone to set up such a network, and it’s also not very difficult to use tools like Wireshark to analyze data packets.
You can also think of these attacks as being analogous to keyloggers because the final result is the same. In essence, everything you type on your laptop, phone, or tablet is being relayed to another computer, thanks to the unknown Wi-Fi network that does not offer encryption for your traffic.
It’s possible to get away with it if the websites you use have HTTPS enabled because the data you input there will be encrypted regardless of your Wi-Fi settings, but that’s a gamble you definitely shouldn’t take. Not only that, but the hackers can use the unsecure connection to infect your computer with actual keyloggers, which would make even HTTPS useless.
Your Device Can Be Infected with Malware
While some attackers will be happy just to have your passwords and account credentials, others are much more bent on creating chaos and destruction, which is why they also infect your devices with malware. This is not limited to your desktop or your laptop either, given the fact that your phone and tablet are susceptible to all sorts of malicious software as well.
There are a plethora of malware types that can be used in such an attack – ranging from annoying (such as pop-up ads or unwanted browser add-ons), to downright destructive, such as viruses that can keep your CPU at 100% and disable various system security measures, resulting in defective hardware.
Naturally, this is not a good time for your PC to break down, especially if you use it to work from home. Besides the fact that you won’t be able to do your job, it’s also challenging to find a computer repair shop during quarantine and lockdown. Also, computer parts may be unavailable or severely overpriced for a while, so you are definitely going to have a hard time if anything goes wrong with your hardware.
There are some measures you can take to mitigate these risks, such as using antivirus software. Even the integrated Windows Defender can do a great job, and it’s also highly recommended that you do not mess with Windows’ UAC functionality since that can put you at risk.
Blackmailers Can Encrypt Your Drives with Ransomware
Another thing you expose yourself to when connecting to an unknown Wi-Fi network is the possibility to fall prey to a ransomware attack. If you are not familiar with the concept, this means that all of your storage drives get encrypted by the attacker, making them virtually inaccessible unless you have the correct encryption key. As you may have guessed, the attackers ask for money in exchange for this key. Otherwise, you won’t be getting your data back.
Under normal circumstances, a ransomware attack is only effective if the data on the device in question is truly valuable to you. Thus, while it is indeed impossible to recover the encrypted data without the key, a simple full-drive format gets rid of the problem – at least as long as the attacker doesn’t come back to do it again later on.
As a side note, it’s worth pointing out that some viruses can infect your boot sectors. What this means is that the virus can survive a format and OS reinstall, because the data from the boot sector is usually not deleted in the process, at least not…