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Hidden risks in public Wi-Fi

Spending time online using a Wi-Fi hot spot is almost second nature now, but according to a recent Kaspersky Survey, more than a third of users take no additional security precautions when doing so.

Nowadays it’s easy to get online in addition to cellular networks and broadband cable communication networks, there is often at least one hotspot which can connect computers and mobile devices to the Internet.

However, many of these hotspots skimp on protection for users and many users are unaware or unconcerned about the potential problems this can cause. In our survey, 34% of users said they took no special measures to protect online activity using a hotspot, while 14% were happy to bank or shop online using any network that came to hand. Just 13% take the time to check the encryption standard of any given access point. Does extra caution make sense when using public Wi-Fi, or is it all a worry too far?

It’s You, a Website and a Man in the Middle: The answer is YES. You never know what ‚”that guy with the laptop at the next table‚” might be doing. Maybe, like you, he’s checking his email or chatting with friends. But maybe he’s monitoring the Internet traffic of everyone around him including yours. A Man-in-the-Middle attack makes this possible. Any Wi-Fi access point is a window to the Internet for all the devices attached to it. Every request from a device goes via an access point, and only then reaches the sites that users want to visit. Without any encryption of communications between users and the access point it’s a simple task for a cybercriminal to intercept all the data a user enters. That might include data sent to a bank, or an online store. Moreover, attacks like this are possible even if the hotspot is password protected and a secure https-connection between the required site and the user’s browser is established.

What data are cybercriminals interested in? Anything they can use to make a profit especially account logins and passwords for e-mail, e-banking, e-payment and social networks. It’s obvious that we need to secure Wi-Fi connections – but how?

Security in the Middle: First of all, Kaspersky Lab recommends only using secure connections to access points. This alone will greatly reduce the risk of the traffic being intercepted by cybercriminals. However, when users are planning to use sites which demand personal information such as usernames and passwords, this basic precaution must be joined with additional protective tools.

Kaspersky Lab’s specially developed Safe Money technology ensures the best possible protection for online banking and payment transactions. This is a set of protection mechanisms activated automatically as soon as the users enter the address of an online store or e-banking or e-payment service in the browser address bar. Safe money protects users from attacks via software vulnerabilities, phishing pages, malware and Man-in-the-Middle attacks. Once a secure connection between the browser and the banking site is established, Safe Money checks the verification certificate of the site against a constantly updated database of trusted sites to ensure that the page is authentic. If a match is found, the connection is recognised and trusted. If the certificate is not found in the database, it may be a fake site created by a ‚”man-in-the-middle‚” in order to deceive users and steal personal data. Safe Money won’t allow this to happen.

Safe Money is available in Kaspersky Internet Security and Kaspersky PURE 3.0 for home users. Kaspersky Internet Security is also available as part of Kaspersky Internet Security multi-device, the solution developed to protect several devices working on different OS.


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