Wi-Fi services are readily available in most cities around the world. While telecom companies use the technology to reduce traffic congestion in their networks, most businesses use it to attract customers. With so many Wi-Fi hotspots the chances of finding unprotected wireless networks is high. A survey in Scotland conducted by security expert James Lyne, concluded 650 out of the 3092 Wi-Fi networks in Edinburgh lacked proper security or were completely unprotected.
A Wi-Fi access point that is not properly protected can be used by criminals to use it to break into other systems or download illegal content. Lyne found 432 of the 650 were completely open, but the remaining 228 had basic protection that could be easily hacked.
The problem exists around the world as more mobile devices are increasingly using Wi-Fi technology to get online. There are more than 70,000 hotspots in the US alone and 1.3 million around the world and according to a report commissioned by the Wireless Broadband Alliance, there will be 5.8 million hotspots by 2015.
While it is very convenient to access free Wi-Fi network while you are drinking your coffee, it is important to note a report released by Javelin Strategy and Research found the number of consumers who fell victim to identity fraud last year increased to 12.6 million in the US. The report points out smart phone and tablet users were targeted by cyber criminals using different types of exploits and taking advantage of unsecured Wi-Fi connections to steal personal information.
As more people start using their mobile devices to conduct financial transactions, they become more vulnerable to these types of attacks if proper precautions are not taken. If you are going to use free Wi-Fi service make sure you update your security software and turn on the firewall before you walk out of your house. Once you reach your destination ask the proprietor of the business the name of the hotspot with the correct spelling. Rogue networks will use similar names in the hopes of catching someone that is not careful. Disable any settings that make automatic connections to available networks and turn off file and printer sharing features and only use sites that are encrypted.
The best way to ensure you are protected is to use a Virtual Private Network every time you make a connection. A VPN network sends the information traveling through your device through a secure tunnel that can't be seen by hackers.
Edited by Rich Steeves