Wi-FiIf you’re going on vacation, do you know that Wi-fi hotspots you use to check your email may not be who they say they are?

I am always leery of studies released by parties with a vested interests in the results (i.e. a group of wine makers releasing a study about wine being good for you), but sometimes they still bring up good points.  While I think the basis of this Fox News story on Wi-Fi security is a little suspect, it still raises good points for Wi-Fi security any time you are away from your home.

Multiple security firms issued warnings about your information security while in places such as an airport (again, notice the warning was issued by security firms…) or a hotel, and to make sure that the network you are connected to is legitimate.  Yes, this is good advice, and is something you should pay attention to, but the reason I find this whole thing suspect is that the original study was issued by AirTight Networks, a company that specializes in wireless security measures.  They sent out experts to 27 airports around the world to test their Wi-Fi and claim to have found unsecured networks in baggage claim, ticketing areas, passangers connecting to hacker Wi-Fi hotspots and more.

The reason I find this whole thing a bit “off” is:

  • Are the hackers buying tickets every day to get past security, and then setting up in waiting areas with Wi-Fi sniffers?  No one notices the people then not getting on flights?
  • Are they run by employees in the secured areas of the airport?  Those people are searched each day also.
  • No one notices stray, unexplained equipment in a storage room?

If all this is to be believed, I’m more worried about my physical safety if hackers can get this Wi-Fi equipment in with no one noticing.

No matter how cynical I may be, Symantec still offered five good pointers in the article:

— Pay attention to your surroundings. Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you’re not in public. Don’t look at important documents when sitting in a waiting area for a plane or a train — wait until you’re alone and in private for that.

— Beware of “Evil Twins.” Some Wi-Fi networks look legitimate but are actually dummy networks created by criminals. Even if they contain the name of your airport, airline or hotel, they will directly link your computer to the hacker’s. If you always use the official access keys provided by the establishment, then you should be safe.

— Always assume Wi-Fi connections are being eavesdropped on. Never enter sensitive data — Social Security numbers, bank account information, etc. — when browsing the Web via a Wi-Fi network.

— Set all Bluetooth devices to “hidden,” not to “discoverable.” Better yet, if you don’t use Bluetooth, just shut off the function altogether.

— Keep your security software current and active. Mobile PCs are just as vulnerable to viruses, worms and Trojan horses as are desktops, so make sure you have the latest protection installed.

I would say don’t live your life in constant fear, but do try to use common sense and your own good judgement in what networks you connect to.

 

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