Robert Siciliano Identity Theft Expert
Most people are familiar with the TJX data breach, in which 45 million credit card numbers were stolen. TJX recently agreed to pay $9.75 million to 41 states to settle an investigation of the massive data breach. According to some reports, TJX has spent up to $256 million attempting to fix the problem that led to the breach.
It’s been said repeatedly that the criminal hackers responsible for the breach were sitting in a car outside a store when they stumbled across a vulnerable, unprotected wireless network using a laptop, a telescope antenna, and an 802.11 wireless LAN adapter. This process is called “Wardriving.”
WiFi is everywhere. Whether you travel for business or simply need Internet access while out and about, your options are plentiful. You can sign on at airports, hotels, coffee shops, fast food restaurants, and now, airplanes. What are your risk factors when accessing wireless? There are plenty. WiFi wasn’t born to be secure. It was born to be convenient. As more sensitive data has been wirelessly transmitted over the years, the need for security has evolved. Today, with criminal hackers as sophisticated as they ever have been, wireless communications are at an even higher risk.
When setting up a wireless router, there are two different security techniques you can use. WiFi Protected Access is a certification program that was created in response to several serious weaknesses researchers had found in the previous system, Wired Equivalent Privacy. Wired Equivalent Privacy was introduced in 1997 and is the original form of wireless network security. Wireless networks broadcast messages using radio and are thus more susceptible to eavesdropping than wired networks.
It’s one thing to access your own wireless connection from your home or office. It entirely another story when accessing someone else’s unprotected network. Setting up a secure WiFi connection will protect the data on your network, for the most part, but if you’re on someone else’s network, secured or unsecured, your data is at risk. Anyone using an open network risks exposing their data. There are many ways to see who’s connected on a wireless connection, and gain access to their data.
There are a few things you should do to protect yourself while using wireless. Be smart about what kind of data you transmit on a public wireless connection. There’s no need to make critical transactions while sipping that macchiato.
Don’t store critical data on a device used outside the secure network. I have a laptop and an iPhone. If they are hacked, there’s nothing on either device that would compromise me.
Install Hotspot Shield. A free ad supported program, Hotspot Shield protects your entire web surfing session by securing your connection, whether you’re at home or in public, using wired or wireless Internet. Hotspot Shield does this by ensuring that all web transactions are secured through HTTPS. They also offer an iPhone application. There are fee based programs, including Publicvpn.com and HotSpotVPN, which can create a secure “tunnel” between a computer and the site’s server.
Turn off WiFi and blue tooth on your laptop or cell phone when you’re not using them. An unattended device emitting wireless signals is very appealing to a criminal hacker.
Beware of free WiFi connections. Anywhere you see a broadcast for “Free WiFi,” consider it a red flag. It’s likely that free WiFi is meant to act as bait.
Beware of evil twins. These are connections that appear legitimate but are actually traps set to snare anyone who connects.
Keep your antivirus and operating system updated. Make sure your anti-virus is automatically updated and your operating systems critical security patches are up to date.
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Robert Siciliano identity theft speaker discussing criminal wireless hack