Connectivity and mobility are the two words that characterize the work of professionals today. For most managers and executives, it is impossible to work without Wifi. However, while digital transformation has profoundly changed the flow of communications and internal processes for organizations, it has also opened the door to new threats. Cyber threats are taken very seriously by large corporations and public organizations.
Hackers are perfecting their methods and their activities become professional. Hacking, spying, stealing data and identities, sabotaging, hijacking… the motivations and levers of professional cybercriminals are diverse and numerous. Methods evolve, and attacks via Wifi can do considerable damage. Explanations.
The Wifi vulnerability that shook the world
For a long time, access to a password-protected Wifi network was considered sufficient for all personal and professional uses. This is why the vulnerability discovered in October 2017 by a computer security expert at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium, has garnered tremendous media coverage.
The discovery showed the standard WPA2 protection, until now one of the safest in the world, was not so robust. This is alarming considering this protection system is integrated in most Wifi networks.
Once WPA2 is broken, hackers can intercept all data transiting through the Wifi network, including messages, passwords, personal data and files. An attack that works silently with the majority of connected devices (smartphones, tablets and computers).
This vulnerability has been gradually corrected by major equipment manufacturers, but its scale has taken everyone by surprise due the good reputation of WPA2 as a reliable and secure technology.
The key takeaway Technologies are constantly evolving. What is secure today, or considered secure, will not be secure tomorrow.
Public Wifi networks: Practical but dangerous
Would you leave the keys to your office, your home or your safe conspicuously for anybody to take?
Yet, this is what you do when you log on to a public Wifi network. Airports, restaurants, public hotspots… free public Wifi is useful, but it is also a real danger for the security and confidentiality of your data.
- Evil Twin
In this first scenario, a hacker creates a rogue public Wifi hotspot (from a laptop connected to the Internet) and carefully names it to fool users. Are you at a Starbucks coffee shop? Just create a network called “Starbucks_WiFi” for users to connect with confidence. Same for your XYZ business. A “XYZ_Guests” network may seem legitimate enough for your customers, partners and suppliers to connect to when they visit you. Once connected to the (aptly named) “evil twin”, all information you transmit or receive is accessible to hackers.
This second technique is a common public Wifi network hacking method. It allows an attacker to break into a Wifi network and then intercept all communications. All inbound and outbound interactions go through the “middle man”, who is invisible to users, but able to monitor everything that is exchanged. Including the most confidential information.
The danger also comes from corporate Wifi networks
Corporate Wifi networks are generally better protected than public or personal Wifi networks. However, certain attacks target these networks to steal data from organizations and users (employees, visiting customers/partners).
- Rogue Access Point
An unauthorized access to an organization’s Wifi network. A hacker has access to an organization’s intranet and can execute various malicious actions (stealing documents, crashing servers and computers, etc.). This may happen as soon as a network is “visible” from outside an organization’s premises and is weakly secured. Your network’s signal go through the walls of your premises. An individual nearby can attempt to connect, especially if the Wifi password is weak. This is an attack IT must stop, especially in buildings hosting several organizations, where multiple Wifi networks are easily accessible.
A malware capable of attacking your Wifi network. As the name suggests, it is designed to install silently on an Android smartphone (often hidden in a seemingly harmless application such as a game). Like a Trojan horse, the malware will then take advantage of the Wifi network via an infected smartphone to change the parameters of the Wifi access point, intercept passwords, credentials, and files exchanged by users through the Wifi network. This information is then silently transmitted to a remote server.
While Wifi provides a great way to communicate, it also comes with potential cybersecurity risks. Awareness should be fostered among all employees handling sensitive or confidential information, for them to take necessary measures. Foremost among these are user training and transfer of knowledge. The more your employees are aware of the dangers, the more they will be able to take the right decisions.
An effective security system includes protecting networks and encrypting communications through the use of a secure smartphone, or VPN or encrypted messaging