Don’t Connect to a Public Wi-Fi Network Anywhere You Wouldn’t Go Barefoot

from New America Weekly

We’ve all done it. Maybe because of work pressures—you need to catch a plane but are also pushing toward a deadline. Maybe out of sheer boredom—your flight is delayed yet another hour and there is really only so much time you can spend at the airport bar before noon. Whatever the reason, we’ve all been there—stuck in the airport, looking at a list of little Wi-Fi signals, some without the lock next to them, wondering … it couldn’t hurt, could it? Just this once?

Of course, airports aren’t the only place with skeezy Wi-Fi. Coffee shops, parks—bring your device to any public place and see what networks are out there. Your phone is constantly calling out, looking for any Wi-Fi networks it has connected to in the past, and any networks that it might want to connect to in the future. (Your smartphone is definitely in an open relationship with your home network.) Some of these Wi-Fi networks have names you want to trust: OHare Airport Official Wi-Fi, for example. Some definitely scream “stay away”—like GetOffMyLAN. Some are bizarrely complex—Purchase4478_Open3’—and some are thoroughly bland—Netgear00. But what do you really know about any of them?

Public Wi-Fi is a lot like the airport. The airport floor, in fact. If you’re good and nerdy, you probably thought I was going to make an analogy about airplanes, terminals, packets, and ports—nope. I want to talk about the airport floor, the part right after you go through the TSA. Thousands of people stream through here every day. Lots of them don’t have their shoes on. They have varying ideas of what “hygiene” means. In a word: gross.

You can’t see the gross stuff on the airport floor, but you wouldn’t walk there barefoot. (Would you? Please don’t.) Similarly, you can’t always see the icky things on public Wi-Fi, but often, they’re there. Things like man-in-the-middle attacks—standing between you and everywhere you connect, picking up your login credentials, logging your behavior, maybe even grabbing secret copies of the files you transfer. Man-in-the-middle attacks might even change where you intended to go on the internet, swapping your visit from the innocuous www.icanhascheezburger.com to something like icanhascheesburger.ru, which offers all the adorable cats with a side of silent spyware.

More here.

Posted in Privacy, Technology and tagged , , , , .

3 Comments

  1. Public Wi-Fi is a lot more dangerous than it seems. Everyone has done it once waiting for a plane or connecting at the local Starbucks. But in reality, this is a no go and you should never do it. It is compared to the airport floor where everyone walks without their shoes. There is a lot of germs out there on that floor that you cannot see at all. This is like a Wi-Fi connection in a public place. They can basically look at whatever you have on your phone, snd not even that they could even have access to your bank accounts. This could also be infected with emails sent to everyone within the Wi-Fi range. The feds should probably look more into this. Hackers probably do this for a living, just hanging out in a public place trying to get money or ruin someone’s life.
    After reading this I am never going to connect to another public Wi-Fi again. I as most people have their whole lives on their phones. That’s scary that one little public internet connection means someone can get all your information just like that. Even in the article when it talked about two guys trying to hack into the private Wi-Fi. That is so scary, imagine what they could do with all your information and what scams they can pull off just using that. I am not the only one who should be afraid of this, everyone is getting more technology savvy and more and more personal stuff is on your computer and phone. This opened my eyes to see how scary technology can be, and how much damage it could do to someone

  2. They always say connecting to a Wifi that is wide open to the public and free is a huge red flag, but that doesn’t stop every single person from doing it. It’s just something about the free Wifi in an area, such as an airport, when one is waiting a long time that screams “why not connect to me!” Even though we all know it is a major red flag, we still do it time and time again. Free Wifi never scares anyone even though the consequences could sometimes be drastic. We only care about accessing our favorite websites and apps at ease without wasting data. Whether one is trying to watch the last few minutes of a show or download a song before getting on the plane, free Wifi is the way to go for most people.
    It is understandable that people say that the Wifi in Starbucks, an airport, or anywhere else is not very safe, but people have wants and they need to tame those in that very moment regardless of the consequences. The analogy of saying that public Wifi is like walking on the airport floor barefoot is the best way to put it. People would do if it was needed, but of course, frowned upon. The main issue is that we want to enjoy ourselves while waiting for whatever we are waiting for and saying no to free Wifi just isn’t ideal.
    Having to deal with a MitM could be very annoying and tricky. Some would not even understand what just happened right after one’s information was voluntarily given away by the owner. For example, in the article it talks about how the author and his fiance connected to public Wifi and they were asked to give their username and password, if they did not understand the situation at hand, they could of been in major trouble, but seeing their knowledge, they decided to play along. There are thousands of people a second trying to steal everyone’s information and connecting to public Wifi makes it so much easier to get the intended information.
    The article does not encourage connecting to a public Wifi no matter where one is, but sometimes it is harder to say no than yes or some people think “It won’t happen to me.” We encourage not to connect to the Wifi to keep one’s information safe, but majority of the time, we do not care about safe. We care about getting that song or finishing that movie. People are very much inclined to access public Wifi because it is just the easiest thing to do at that time. Like the article said, some people can get numerous delays on their plane and they are just in the airport all day and have something due, they are going to do it. No one would be worried about how the dangerous the Wifi is because when we see a deadline, we must get it done by that date and time no matter what. It is highly frowned upon to connect to public Wifi, but if one is bored at an airport and needs something to do, join the Wifi and just be cautious as one proceeds.

  3. Before I finally got myself unlimited data, I was stuck sharing 10GB of data between five people in my family. For 30 days, I was only allowed 2GB for myself before having to steal my little sister’s data. In my house, I’m the person asked to look up different things online for my family when we’re out or have to use my Waze app to get us home, therefore using a good majority of my family’s data. Whenever we were out and I clicked on the Wifi button and saw an unlocked, seemingly safe Wifi option, I would click it and try and stop myself from using all of the limited data for the month. I would use it in airports, coffee shops, and public stores. Right now, off the top of my head, I know that if I went back to Newark and LaGuardia Airport, Starbuck and Dunkin’ Donuts, and even the Garden State Plaza, my phone would automatically connect to the free public wifi there because I’ve used it so many times in the past. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about not connecting to someone’s free Wifi if they’re offering it.
    Unlike the article, I’ve never been prompted to enter my information. The only time I did not connect to public Wifi was over the summer, working in the courthouse. Before agreeing to their terms and conditions, for the first time ever, I decided to read them and they mentioned how they would be able to use your search history and phone information against you if needed. Even though I wasn’t planning on getting in trouble and forcing them to search my phone, it still made me stop and consider if signing on to their Wifi was a good idea or not. In the end, I decided not to do it and just make my data suffer the entire summer. This article opened my eyes to using public Wifi. I plan on forgetting the networks I’m already connected to the next time I’m out and I’ll just keep forcing my data to do all the hard work for me instead of connecting to someone’s free Wifi.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *