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Blog Post, Security in Seconds

Security in Seconds: Dangers of Connecting to an Open Network

Nov 5, 2020

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What are the dangers of connecting to an open network?

Public Wi-Fi is very prevalent in today's society. It is incredibly convenient to have access to the internet virtually anywhere. It exists in airports, gas stations, coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, and many more. With this huge convenience however, comes great risk. As convenient as it is for customers and travelers, it makes it just as convenient for malicious attackers.

Most public Wi-Fi networks require no authentication. This creates a huge opportunity for an attacker to create a MitM (Man in the Middle) attack utilizing an attack such as an Evil Twin.

Instead of a person connecting to the to the public Wi-Fi, they are actually connecting to the attacker's hotspot instead. To the victim nothing will appear out of the ordinary. Their device will still say they are connected to the public Wi-Fi and they will be granted access to the internet.

In reality however, the victim's traffic is first passing through the attacker. From here the attacker can do many things. They have access to all of the traffic that the victim transmits over the Wi-Fi. This can include bank credentials, credit card information, and any other activity as long as they're connected.

The attacker can also interact with the victim's device. For example, they could send the victim a Facebook login page and have them enter their favorite social media credentials. The victim might just believe they were logged out and enter their information, unknowingly handing the attacker their username and password.


How to protect yourself when connecting to an open network

The obvious solution is to not connect to open or public Wi-Fi networks. If you find yourself in a situation where you need to connect to a public network, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Especially when connecting back home or to your place of work. Make sure to disable automatically connecting to networks. On your device, look through your PNL (Preferred Network List) and forget any open networks that show up in the list. This is a list of the networks that your device remembers and if configured to, might automatically connect upon discovering the network.

Corey Belanger

Corey Belanger

Corey is a Security Consultant and leads QA of product development, using his expertise in these dual roles to more effectively test and secure applications, whether while building enterprise applications or while performing penetration tests and vulnerability assessments for customers. An Army veteran with a tour of duty in Afghanistan, Corey has built a post-military career in security while earning Network+, Security+, GIAC Certified Incident Handler, GIAC Python Coder, GIAC Web App Penetration Testing, and GIAC Penetration Tester certifications. Corey is also a BsidesNH organizer and founding member of TechRamp, avenues which he uses to help others build their skills for careers in security and technology. Fun Fact: When not manning a terminal or watching the Bruins, Corey can often be found snowboarding or riding his motorcycle.