WiFi snooping there are new online dangers by computer hackers that have been affecting the Saint Louis Community. While this subject can occur in any city, state, or country, this alert should not be taken lightly. This threat applies to anyone who accesses the internet through unsecured WiFi networks. This includes devices such as computers, cellular phones, PDA’s, IPods, Video Game Systems (Xbox, Play Station Series, Nintendo Series, etc), and wireless printers, scanners, and fax machines.
How many people access the internet at places like local libraries, Kinko’s, other Internet Café’s, Bread Co, School Campuses, Apartment and Condo Club Houses, Airports, Bus Terminals, Train Stations, Malls, or even while driving (not recommended)? Now, how many of those INTERNET users have their own secured wireless network cards; because these people are least likely to be hacked by a computer pirate. Whereas, those individuals who use a free WiFi network to connect to the INTERNET are the most vulnerable to outside influences.
Chances are that the WiFi connection is not secured and that anything typed online can be mirrored by a computer hacker. Now, some people may be thinking, “but, I use a user identification and password to access things like online banking, email accounts, etc.” Well, I hate to rain on your parade but if you are using an unsecured WiFi network, which is commonly found at the places mentioned above, then you can bet that others are online with you – as if they were sitting in your seat and typing every key stroke that you are typing. If you do not think that; what I like to call, “Mirror Reflection” occurs whenever you are using a WiFi connection, then feel free to share your personal and banking information with others.
Wi-Fi is a trademark of the Wi-Fi Alliance that manufacturers use to brand certified products that belong to a class of Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) devices based on the IEEE 802.11 standards. IEEE 802.11 is a set of standards carrying out WLAN computer communications in the 2.4, 3.6 and 5.0 GHz frequency bands. WiFi coverage may include one of many access points, commonly referred to as hotspots. Depending on the range, hotspots can encompass one room, building, a college campus, or even several square miles. Some locations may have several WiFi devices spread over a specified area.
WiFi Connections vs. Secured Networks
The most common wireless encryption WiFi connection is known as the Wired Equivalent Privacy, which has been successfully breached the most. A WEP connection can be easily hacked, even when correctly configured. Typically, WiFi connections at hotspots are unfortunately set to an encryption-free default. Depending on the company or government agency that controls unencrypted WiFi networks, will often monitor users who access the INTERNET through any device that is used (see above). In addition, these ‘spies’ often have a software program embedded within the WiFi network that stores any information communicated by the use. This alone can infringe upon your personal security. One way to secure your privacy is to access all websites with the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTPS) in the address bar. If you are unable to type an “S” or “s” at the end of a “HTTP” or able to type “HTTPS” before a www;* then, I do not recommend accessing the internet through that connection. Even with trusted network connections, (i.e.: employers) that have INTERNET access as a benefit to employees, there is always the risk of exposing your search websites, by the employer.
Whether secured or unsecured; WiFi or an old fashion hard-line phone line connection; while employers do not generally ‘hack’ their employees’ computer networking, they do however, monitor employees to make sure that they are not:
- Downloading pornographic material (even if an employee visits an occasional pornographic website by ‘accident,’ most companies have a keystroke monitor to verify if accidental or intentional).
- Note that in most states, including Missouri, the law considers any download or page visit of child pornography one time, as a possible mistype or an accidental click of a popup window; but two or more visits to one or more pornographic material, and the employer will not be the only entity monitoring the employee’s activity.
- Depending on the employer, even an accidental visit of any pornographic material, may be grounds for immediate termination. If unsure of an employer’s policy, then, why chance a termination or possible criminal charges?
- Depending on the WiFi connection, local and/or federal law enforcement may be monitoring activity by users.
Everyone wants to know their identity because chances are that they already know everyone else’s personal and identifiable information.
Hackers through History
A hacker may be a single individual or a network of people who share a common goal. Hackers were a threat even before the INTERNET and AOL era. Of course, back then a hacker had to go to great lengths to gain access to other computers. During the age of Apple IIE, Macs, and Commodore 64/128, and dial up connections, the hacker needed to obtain the targeted network’s telephone numbers, in order to gain access. Believe it or not, but there was even a time when book publishers would sell companies and even bank branch’s computer phone number. Although, this type of listing would be comparable to a book with website and email addresses; however, the only difference is that pre-9/11 protocols, network access, and firewalls made it virtually easy for hackers to gain access to private files once they obtained phone numbers and website information. With the INTERNET evolving within the blink of an eye these days; and just like any security device, there will always be criminals attempting to find ways to disable new locks. With that said, and while still illegal, many hackers simply attempt to breach security firewalls as mere fun and games. Encrypted USER IDs and Passwords are vital ways that users can block outsiders from hacking your computer files. I recommend changing your passwords on a monthly or quarterly basis. Do not repeat old passwords. Also, try to avoid using personal, family members, or even close friend’s names, DOB, child’s names, even nieces and nephews names; because chances are that users who are members of social networking websites like MySpace and FaceBook, will unintentionally leave behind clues; by identifying friends and family members. Many users will identify these people by tagging photos and identifying them with the person’s age, sex, and location (a/s/l). Hackers will browse through these photos looking for any clues that might be used as someone’s USER ID and Passwords.
- The Black Hat Hacker:
A black hat hacker is someone who takes pride in breaching the computer security of others without consent. This type of hacker often uses a computer, phone system, or network to vandalize, or commit credit card fraud, identity theft, piracy, and other related illegal activity.
- The White Hat Hacker
A white hat hacker is someone who enjoys breaching security for the fun of the chase around internet servers; or for the mere pleasure of testing the vulnerability of their own firewall and security protocols. This type of individual tends to develop a keen interest and understanding of the ‘nuts and bolts’ behind the how and why each function of a computer’s software program does, with the sole purpose of heightening their own perception of the fundamental mechanics. In reality, these types of individuals do not mean to be a nuisance or be a part of illegal or deceptive practices. In fact, the white hacker is commonly suited for a career in network security, cryptology, computer maintenance, or engineering.
- The Grey Hat Hacker
A grey hat hacker is an individual who treads between the grey lines of what may or may not be black and white. Often these people do not realize that they are committing crimes; whereas some people do not know right from wrong; and then there are others, who simply know that what they are doing is illegal but look for loopholes to circumvent their actions.
A hacktivist is an individual who is also an activist against the utilization of technology to communicate social, ideological, religious, or political messages. On one end, a hacktivist may be someone who gains access to websites with sole purpose of vandalizing the web pages. On the other hand, and typically a more serious threat, is someone who infiltrates an internet server with the sole purpose to do as much harm as imagined (also, known as a Cyber Terrorist).
Google apologized for scooping up snippets of people’s online activity from unprotected wireless networks. Google picked up fragments of emails and web addresses while its cars were photographing neighborhoods for the “Street View” feature on its mapping service over the last four years. Most WiFi in public places is unprotected. When you enter passwords and credit card information, these processes are encrypted by individual websites. But the rest of your activity online is open for others to see. It doesn’t take a super hacker to see what you’re doing online, just a free program that can be downloaded from the internet.
If you encounter a Wi-Fi network that requires you to enter a password, then it’s an encrypted network and you’re safe.The bad news is that’s rare and there’s not much you can do to protect yourself from someone who is snooping on web traffic in a coffee shop. So, if you use WiFi in a public place, be aware that someone could be watching what you’re doing. Wait till you get home and use a wired internet connection to get on Facebook or any other website that reveal more about you than you’re willing to share with a nosey, perfect stranger.