16 Nov How To Protect Your Identity with VPN When Using Wi-Fi
In the 2013 hit movie “Identity Thief”, Melissa Mcarthy plays Diana an prolific Florida fraudster that steals Sandy Patterson’s identity (Jason Bateman) using a combination of phishing and social engineering. She then proceeds to max out his credit cards and gets Sandy in a heap of trouble before he is eventually able to track her down. The comedy movie aptly captures how dangerous it can be if someone were to be able to steal your personal data. You can find yourself in all sorts of trouble from being financially ruined to getting into serious legal trouble when someone pretending to be you commits a crime.
Vulnerability of Wifi
One of the ways that your identity could be stolen is through Wifi. We are all accustomed to free wifi in restaurants, malls, and other public areas. But, what most people don’t realize is that wifi offers people with nefarious intentions a window into your life. Despite all the security protocols that have been implemented on wifi networks, all wifi networks remain vulnerable to hacking.
Only recently, the WPA2 protocol used by most wifi connections has been successfully hacked by Belgian researchers. According to Mathy Vanhoef, a member of the research team, “Attackers can use this novel attack technique to read information that was previously assumed to be safely encrypted,” The report went on to state. “This can be abused to steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, chat messages, emails, photos and so on.
Further, in September this year, computer scientists at the University of California, Riverside, discovered a security flaw in wifi routers that has no immediate solution. This security flaw is a result of a fundamental design decision that was made over 20 years ago. It is an extremely difficult design to change which allows an attacker to intercept information entered into a browser. What’s worrying is that the researchers say a security fix for this problem isn’t anywhere close on the horizon and a solution is at least five years away.
These two new vulnerabilities are in addition to existing attack options that hackers have such as wifi sniffing, evil twin attacks, and man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks.
Is all hope lost?
On the contrary, while the above may paint a gloomy picture, there are some basic things that you can do to that may it extremely difficult for a hacker to successfully exploit wifi security flaws.
Only Visit Encrypted Sites
In the vulnerabilities described, researchers found that visiting encrypted sites protected users from getting hacked. You can tell if the website you are visiting is encrypted by checking to see if there is a padlock icon and URL address starts with “https://” as opposed to “http://” in the browser bar. Already, browsers like Chrome have made this a default feature and will warn you if you visit an unencrypted website.
Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)
But, the best way to protect yourself from wifi vulnerabilities is to use encrypted sites in conjunction with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPN protects you from public wifi by encrypting all your communication before it leaves your device. This provides a layer of protection that’s hard to crack. Furthermore, a VPN anonymizes your IP address and masks your actual location making it hard for hackers to determine your location which they would then use to launch a social engineering attack.
Wifi networks will continue to be vulnerable for the foreseeable future. However, by using a VPN and making sure you only visit encrypted sites will ensure you don’t lose your identity to hackers. Some of the VPN providers we recommend include Express VPN, IPVanish, NordVPN, and VyprVPN. Do you have a question related to wifi security? Please engage us in the comments section below.