October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and Oxford Solutions is excited to provide some basic cybersecurity tips that are designed to increase awareness in cybersecurity and help people protect themselves from becoming a victim of cybercrime. This tip is focused on protecting your mobile devices from rogue WiFi access points.
Did you know that connecting your mobile device to public WiFi hotspots that don’t prompt for a password can leave your device open to attack? Hackers are aware and can easily trick your phone or tablet into connecting to a network which they control. They exploit an ease-of-access design vulnerability. Mobile device manufacturers (Apple, Android, Samsung, etc) design their products in a way that they automatically connect to WiFi networks which they have joined to in the past. While this is very convenient for you, it is dangerous if not properly managed.
Let’s look at an example: Starbucks encourages their customers to stay longer in their restaurant by providing places to sit and get free access to the Internet. Almost all Starbucks locations use the same WiFi network name: attwifi. There is no password to access the network. After you leave Starbucks, your mobile device will continually look for the “attwifi” network. If there is another “attwifi” network within range of device, it will automatically join to that network if it is not already joined to another WiFi network. Hackers know this and are known to setup rogue WiFi hotspots with commonly used WiFi network names, such as “attwifi.” If your mobile device comes within range of their rogue WiFi access point, your device will join to their network and they may begin to scan and possible break into your device! This can be a common practice in densely populated areas.
The best way to prevent this is to go into your mobile device settings and force it to “Forget” the WiFi network when you are finished using it. This will prevent your device from unwittingly becoming the target of opportunity for a hacker looking to make a quick payday from your information. You can do this by going into your WiFi settings while still connected to the WiFi network and then selecting more options, then clicking “Forget Network.”