Free Press Journal

Public Wi-Fi networks, a haven for hackers


Hacker Pic:

New Delhi: If you are a frequent business traveller and spend most of your time away from the safe internet boundaries of your office or home, be warned. Public Wi-Fi networks — at the hotel lobby, in the spa, at the poolside or inside a shopping mall — are not at all secure for official work, sensitive data sharing or transferring funds.

According to a latest report by Russia-based software security group, business travellers, particularly senior executives, are more likely to be deprived of valuable private and corporate data than money as they travel abroad.

One in five persons has been a target of cyber crime while abroad and a third (31 per cent) of them are senior business managers, the report said. “The biggest threat to public Wi-Fi security is the ability for the hacker to position himself between you and the connection point. So instead of talking directly with the Wi-Fi network, you are sending key information to the hacker who then relays it on,” Lucknow-based social media analyst Anoop Mishra told IANS.

There have been numerous cases where vulnerabilities in public Wi-Fi networks have been routinely reported. “Hackers have time and again demonstrated that breaking into public Wi-Fi networks is very easy. In fact, hackers often use public Wi-Fi networks for the purposes of hacking into confidential information and data of users who log into these Wi-Fi networks without understanding the cyber security ramifications of the same,” Pavan Duggal, one of the nation’s top cyber law experts, told IANS.

According to experts, open Wi-Fi networks are generally unencrypted because you don’t have to enter a passphrase key when connecting. “While working in this setup, the hacker has access to every piece of information you’re sending out on the internet — important emails, credit card information and even security credentials to your business network,” Mishra said.

This was illustrated most sensationally with Firesheep, an easy-to-use tool that allows hackers sitting in coffee shops to snoop on other people’s browsing sessions and hijack them via open Wi-Fi networks. “More advanced tools like Wireshark could also be used to capture and analyse traffic on public Wi-Fi networks,” Mishra added