Updated: Jan 25, 2022
// The dangers of public Wi-Fi, and how to use it safely...
Hey Hackers! You, like most people, have probably used a public wifi hotspot. It may have been at your local Starbucks® or Dunkin Donuts®. You were probably just finishing up on some reports, online shopping, or even browsing the web. This is typically "fine" until you learn that some hacker is easily monitoring all of your network traffic.
"Faith is like Wi-Fi, it's invisible but it has the power to connect you to what you need."
//How Wi-Fi Works:
In order to better understand how these attacks work, we need a basic understanding of how Wi-Fi works. Wi-Fi is nothing but the communication between a device, a router, and the internet. The router serves as a MITM [Man In The Middle] between your device and the internet. Wi-Fi routers rely on radio signals to communicate with your device's Wi-Fi adapter and vice versa. These radio waves come in two frequencies, 2.4 gigahertz and 5 gigahertz.
The frequency of a wave can "simply" be described as the amount of waves that pass a certain point throughout a given unit of time. Kate Lohnes from Britannica clarifies this by saying that "you’re sitting on a beach, watching the waves crash to shore. If you measured the time between each wave crash, you’d be measuring the frequency of the waves." Now one hertz would be the frequency of a wave per second. Therefore, one gigahertz is about one billion waves every second. The 2.4 and 5 gigahertz frequencies are split into channels that allow for the easy movement of traffic.
When your device makes a request to the internet, the data is converted into binary [a base two numeric system using 1's and 0's]. The data is then separated into packets. Packets are small byte-sized pieces of data that are sent and received by two endpoints [your device and the network]. These packets are sent through a channel to your router, and then to the internet. The endpoint will reassemble the packets to get the necessary data and give a response to your device's request.
//So How do The Packets Know Where to Go:
Your device, the router, and the system hosted on the internet all have an IP [Internet Protocol] address. An IP address is basically the address of a computer. The IP address allows the internet to find a computer's network and geological location. It is very similar to your home address and how different systems [like Amazon®] can send things to that address. Computers can't understand domain names like www.google.com or www.example.com. So they rely on IP addresses to find these websites as well.
But computers aren't the only things that can use IP addresses. You can actually use a website's IP address as the domain name. In a new tab search up "220.127.116.11". That is the IP address of Facebook. You can also use different tools to find the location of a computer using its IP address. To find your IP address you can simply search up "what's my IP".
Please keep in mind that these are the simplified basics of the internet and networking. I haven't discussed the difference between private and public IP's, TCP/IP Protocol, UDP, ports, and a bunch of other networking related nonsense. I do plan to go in-depth on these topics in a future video and/or article. My YouTube Channel is linked at the bottom in "Resources".
T//he Different Types of Wi-Fi Hacks:
Packet Sniffing is one the easiest and most common attacks on this list. Packet Sniffing is the process when a hacker monitors or "sniffs" network traffic. They can capture packets and see the data that your device requested. This can be done using tools like WireShark® or Hak5's Packet Squirrel that can capture and/or read packets.
//Man In The Middle:
I mentioned this term earlier in the article to describe the role of a router, but what if you connected to the wrong router? A MITM attack is an attack where a hacker sits in between the connection of a user and a router. The user's data is sent directly to the hacker where it is rerouted to the internet, and the response is sent back to the user. This simultaneously gives the hacker direct access to the user's traffic and allows the user to connect to the internet [where they won't recognize an attack]. This process can be achieved in many ways, one of which via the Wi-Fi Pineapple. The Pineapple is a device that performs Wi-Fi Auditing. One of its many features is its MITM abilities. The Pineapple can create a Wireless Hotspot that relies on another router's connection to the internet [already creating the first half of a MITM attack]. A hacker can name this wireless access point [wireless hotspot] anything of their choosing. If they deploy it at a Starbucks, they could name the access point "Starbucks_guest_wifi", and users like you would connect to it without a second guess in mind.
More Info on The Pineapple:
Ever wonder how your phone automatically connects to your router when you get home. This is because your phone is constantly looking for networks that it has connected to before. Through this process, one could use a Pineapple to trick your device into recognizing it as your home network [or a network you have connected to before]. This is a very complicated and unlikely process that is typically the result of a direct attack. You can prevent this attack by simply turning off your Wi-Fi.
//How Can I Protect Myself:
It's actually pretty easy to avoid the aforementioned attacks. Due to HTTPS [Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure], you don't have to worry about these types of attacks as much as you think you do. HTTP [Hypertext Transfer Protocol] is an internet protocol that allows users to connect to a website. Unfortunately, this protocol was insecure. If you see a website that starts with "http://www...", just know that it is insecure. So then they made HTTPS, a more secure version that encrypts your traffic between you and the website. If you see a website that starts with "https://www...", you can validate that the website is secure and that your traffic is encrypted.
"So I don't technically need some sort of protection as long as I have a secure browser?"
I hope it was that simple. HTTPS still isn't the best and Hackers are constantly finding vulnerabilities in your favorite websites. Although you will probably be fine, having some form of standard protection is always suggested. Here are a few suggestions...
//Use A VPN:
Despite a lot of VPN's relying on data collection to make a profit, VPN's will nine times out of ten protect your traffic. VPN's put your traffic in a proxy [a protective network shield] over your traffic making it hard to see and decrypt. VPN's will also mask your IP address, making it appear as if your device was in a completely different country. I personally suggest "ProtonVPN" simply due to its privacy-respecting manner, its cross-platform availability, and how it's open-source. ProtonVPN has a free and subscribable version. However, if you are paying for a VPN you should be fine because there is no need for excessive data collection; but I would read the Privacy and Security sections of the Terms and Conditions [just in case].
TOR [The Onion Router] is a free and secure browser that has a multi-layered encryption process. It is not only more secure than a VPN, but it doesn't collect your data. It encrypts all of your traffic multiple times and sends it through an incredibly secure proxy. It also "hops" your traffic from server to server to ensure your privacy. The only downsides are that some websites may break and it may be slow at times.
//Don't Use Public Wi-FI:
This is pretty self-explanatory, I understand that many people rely on Public Wi-Fi for their jobs. I suggest Cellular Data or Personal HotSpots [with strong passwords] if possible. If you don't need to connect, then don't.
In general, a secure browser like Chrome, Firefox, or even Edge will protect you as long as you are on a secure website. However, this can be a very poor and weak system to rely on. Either way, just know how to be safe if using public Wi-Fi. Especially in Airports or large public areas with free Wi-Fi. Thanks for reading, and as always,
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