Of all the network security threats you face, few are almost as dangerous as that of a rogue hotspot.

A rogue hotspot is purposefully established by a hacker to gain an unauthorized access to your personal information which is sensitive in nature.

The rogue hotspot is usually set up in the form of a public WiFi network in the hopes of tricking an individual into believing that it actually IS a trustworthy public WiFi network where s/he is more or less safe from prying eyes.

Therefore, you need to be careful particularly when you intend to get on a public WiFi network in sensitive locations such as the airport, railway station, hospital etc. So how do you identify a rogue WiFi hotspot?

Evil Twin

Source- Flickr

Hackers commonly try to set up a rogue network that’s identical to that of a trusted public WiFi network such that individuals carelessly or mistakenly fall into their trap.

I’ll explain this with a simple example.

Say for example, you are having a chicken pepperoni pizza in your favorite Papa John’s restaurant and you want to get yourself on to their public WiFi network to connect with your friends on Twitter. You turn on your phone’s WiFi and search for the available hotspots, and there you see two names almost identical to one another:

  • Papa John’s WiFi
  • Papa_John’s Free WiFi

So which one would you connect?

Do you even know whether you are falling into the hands of a hacker or not? That’s because I can easily say from here that one among those two is Papa John’s ACTUAL private network and the other one is just an evil twin of the same designed to gain an unauthorized access to all your financial information.

So remember, everything that glitters is not gold. The “free WiFi” name can look too tempting at the start but it may not go so well for you in the end. So keep an eye out.

So is there a solution?

Of course there is. There are many solutions that can be effective in your circumstances provided you stay responsible and aware of the dangers that come with a rogue WiFi hotspot.

So let’s take a peek at a few solutions:

  • As soon as you see two identical networks, clarify the issue to the real owner of the network and get on it only if you get a satisfactory answer. In your case (according to our aforementioned Papa John example), bring the two networks to the manager’s notice.

S/he would be able to tell you which network is ACTUALLY theirs from the name itself.

  • A trusted public WiFi network doesn’t actually open at a single touch. Sometimes, you need to enter a password or an OTP (one time password) is generated via which you can gain an entry into the network.On the other hand, if you can connect to a public network without using either of the two things (i.e. the password or the OTP), GET OFF IT IMMEDIATELY. It can very easily be a trap.

  • Use WiFi sniffer tools or apps to find out whether a particular public WiFi network is crowded or not. Public WiFi networks at airports or railways stations are always expected to be overcrowded with traffic.But in case you notice an unusually sparse network, do not get on it for any reason whatsoever. It might very easily be a rogue hotpot designed to take away all your sensitive information at moment’s notice. WiFi sniffer tools can aid you with that.

A few thumb rules:

Lastly, I would like to highlight a few thumb rules that you should maintain while browsing the internet on a public WiFi network.

Even if you know that the network is absolutely safe and sound from all possible harms, it’s advisable to practice these consistently so that you can turn them into a part of your habit to benefit in the long run:

  • Use HTTPS in case of HTTP.
  • DO NOT do any financial transaction or access any financial information on a public WiFi irrespective of the fact whether it’s trusted or not.
  • Use a VPN (Virtual private network).
  • And update your phone antivirus software to the latest model to maximize efficiency.

So that’s it then. It’s time I bring this article to a close for now. Hope you had a good and useful read.

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