Unprotected wi-fi networks with Internet gateway are everywhere. Wardriving is becoming easier and connecting to an unprotected net doesn’t imply anymore that you have to go with your laptop under the building; you just need to joke with your smartphone and no one will notice that you are pirating your neighbor’s wifi.
That’s not all sugar!
Connecting to an unprotected wifi network is not a problem only for the owner in case the user do some illegal activity (pornography, buying drugs or weapons, surf the darknet) but may be a risk even for the user.
Exchanging data with an unprotected wifi means that your terminal communicates on a clear channel. Nothing is encrypted, everything can be sniffed. Adding the matter that many web services do not already use https by default it’s probable that we transmit, through the clear channel wifi, the plain text version of our username and password during a login.
That’s not good! What if there is an hacker behind the unprotected wifi? What if the wifi is configured with less security so many people will use it and their credential stolen? What if you are connecting to a network build to trap you?
Welcome to the wifi honey-pot world.
Wifi honeypots are networks built with intrinsic lessen authentication security, created to log and sniff users activities. You think you have found a good free access point, you log into your email, they stole your username and password. You log into facebook, they know you are Mr. Brown connecting their net.
Even if you know that the other side there’s no malicious owner of the net, this not grow up security. As you are connected to the net, also an hacker maybe has connected his system too. Experience told me that in many cases the ones who leave wifi unprotected also doesn’t change default login credentials of the modem/router/ap so an hacker may hijack and completely own the net, becoming a man in the middle for everyone who try to connect.
Also the physical and legally owner of the network may risk that his traffic was sniffed and his life stolen and that’s not the worst threat: if a pirate illegally connect to his network and purchase drugs, police will find the network used to perform the transaction and the owner of the wifi and internet access will be responsible of this crime, since he successfully demonstrate that he is not involved.
Do not kidding with wifi security, always protect the authentication and communication process to your net and protect it with the best standard implemented in your platform that probably is WPA2. There’s no need to use other standards like WEP that requires the same configuration steps and doesn’t provide the same security as WPA does. Most important setup a strong password: WPA can be attacked by bruteforcing the password and first of all an attacker will try well known passwords and keywords built up on personal data of the net owner (like birth date, name of the sons ecc…) then he pass to use passwords from a vocabulary. So use a strong, long password and keep in mind to use only senseless strings of characters. Maybe enable the MAC address check to allow only your devices to be connected to your net in wifi mode.
Read your router’s user manual and eventually ask to a technician to configure and harden your network if you are unable to do so. It will be an investment.