1 in 4 WiFi hotspots just waiting to be hacked

Kaspersky Lab research reveals that millions of wireless users are exposed to cybercrime all over the world

Tags: Kaspersky LabUnited Arab EmiratesWiFi
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1 in 4 WiFi hotspots just waiting to be hacked Users open themselves to risk in popular public WiFi hotspots.
By  David Ndichu Published  March 22, 2017

More than a quarter of all WiFi hotspots around the world are vulnerable to attack, Kaspersky Lab says.

Kaspersky analysed information on more than 31 million WiFi hotspots around the world, finding out that 28% of them are unsecured and pose a risk to users' personal data. That means all the traffic transmitted over those networks, including personal messages, passwords, documents and much more, can be easily intercepted and used by attackers.

According to the Kaspersky Security Network, 25% of the world’s WiFi networks have no encryption or password protection of any kind. In other words, the information they transmit is completely open and can be read by third parties. Another 3% of hotspots use WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) to encrypt data. This unreliable protocol can be "cracked" within minutes using tools that are freely available on the Internet.

The rest of the nearly three-quarters of WiFi hotspots use a more reliable form of encryption based on the family of Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) protocols. The effort required to hack these networks depends on the settings, including the strength of the password. For instance, if it’s a weak or publicly accessible password (e.g., on display in a cafe), a criminal will also be able to decrypt any transmitted traffic.

It’s worth noting that the top 20 countries with the highest percentage of non-encrypted WiFi hotspots includes many popular tourist destinations – Thailand, France, Israel, the US and so on, Kaspersky says. Travelers are among the most vulnerable because the nearest available WiFi hotspot is often the only way for them to stay connected. At the same time, another study suggests only 52% of Internet users in the UAE are concerned about their data being intercepted during a Wi-Fi session.

“We advise all users to remain vigilant when connecting to Wi-Fi. Don’t use hotspots without passwords and don’t use public hotspots to perform high-risk activities such as online banking or shopping, logging on to sites or for transferring confidential information. If that sort of traffic is intercepted by a third party, it could result in serious losses, including financial losses. And of course, we strongly recommend using additional measures to protect traffic, such as VPN (Virtual Private Network) technology,” explains Denis Legezo, antivirus expert at Kaspersky Lab.

The company’s flagship solutions Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky Total Security now integrate the new Secure Connection feature that encrypts all data sent and received over a communication channel. Depending on the user settings, Secure Connection can be run automatically when attempting to connect to an unsecured network, or when performing potentially vulnerable operations online.

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