It was a gorgeous, sunny week in San Francisco as the best and brightest security experts around the globe gathered to attend one of the leading cybersecurity tradeshows in the industry – RSA Conference 2018.
From hacking iOS to why security matters when it comes to Wi-Fi, wireless threats were the topic of several talk-tracks this year. We’re all guilty of connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi at times. We connect at the Airport, coffee shop, and even at venues like RSAC. And as the growth and popularity of Wi-Fi continues to climb, it’s important that we understand the risks that come with connecting to public Wi-Fi, or even offering Wi-Fi to employees, visitors and guests.
To show just how often Wi-Fi security is an afterthought for most people, we set up a honeypot access point offering free open Wi-Fi network for RSAC attendees. Unsurprisingly, conference-goers connected to our Wi-Fi network with their smartphones, tablets, laptops and smartwatches—each broadcasting their MAC address, device make and model, and IP address to our access point. This is certainly concerning for a security-focused audience! Out of 16,621 visitors that stopped by the WatchGuard RSAC booth, 30 percent spent anywhere between five and 15 minutes connected to our honeypot access point while listening to booth presentations, viewing product demos and chatting with our security experts.
A typical Wi-Fi attack takes less than two minutes! The information gathered by our honeypot from RSAC attendees and the length of time they remained connected would be more than enough for a criminal hacker to conduct a man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack to hack each and every one of these connections and steal valuable information like usernames, passwords, and even credit card numbers. Of course, this exercise was simply put in place for educational purposes – none of these RSAC attendees were in danger of such an attack, and everyone was able to enjoy secure internet connection.
The key lesson here is that hacking Wi-Fi is easy, and tricking users into connecting to malicious access points is even easier. So, what can Wi-Fi users and businesses do to help protect against Wi-Fi security threats?
Wi-Fi security tips for those remote employees and business travelers
1. Don’t connect to public Wi-Fi SSIDs if multiple variations are broadcasted – this is not normal for a legitimate business.
2. When you need to access something such as your bank account or a confidential corporate report, consider disabling Wi-Fi and using your 4G connection. Once you’ve wrapped up the confidential task, feel free to hop back on Wi-Fi.
3. Clear your saved Wi-Fi network names from each of your devices and consider disabling the “auto-connect” feature in your device settings.
Wi-Fi security tips for business owners and IT departments
Your visitors, guests and employees demand Wi-Fi access, but a wireless internet connection alone isn’t good enough if it’s not designed to protect users from hackers. The best secure Wi-Fi solutions on the market incorporate access points that scan the airspace 24/7. As we scanned the 60,000 square foot area at RSAC, we noticed that out of all the access points deployed throughout the Moscone South, 70 percent did not offer secure Wi-Fi connectivity. What was even more alarming to see at RSAC was that out of all the unsecured access points broadcasting Wi-Fi for attendees, four were WEP encrypted access points – because this type of dead encryption protocol can easily be cracked in seconds.
When selecting a secure Wi-Fi solution, look for these key security features and protection technologies to ensure that the Wi-Fi you deliver will be safe and secure for everyone:
Built-in Wireless Intrusion Prevention System (WIPS), with high accuracy and low false positive rate. This ensures that the WIPS protection system only takes down the hackers and doesn’t accidentally interfere with your neighbors’ Wi-Fi (this can lead to legal entanglements).
Access points that can be enabled as dedicated WIPS security sensors or access points with dedicated security radios so that you have options to add these devices into your existing Wi-Fi network without having to rip and replace all the existing access points you’ve already deployed.
Security alerts and reporting that can be automated. If you want to avoid becoming inundated with log files, Wi-Fi security systems that take action automatically and provide programmed updates are the best option.
Don’t let Wi-Fi be your biggest security gap. Our experiment at RSAC this year is just another demonstration of the potential damage unsecured Wi-Fi can cause. Often overlooked, Wi-Fi hacking is one of the most serious threats to businesses and end-users alike! Setting up secure Wi-Fi is not difficult; you just need to stay informed about the latest wireless threats and have access to security solutions that can truly prevent them.