Don't Let Your Data Go Rogue

While some people prefer to stay “off the grid” during their summer travels, many people are Internet “hotspot” hopping in order to stay connected with friends and family. Hotspots are areas with a wireless Internet connection – most often found and provided by hotels, coffee shops, and airports. 

However, connecting to hotspots may also pose certain risks; in order to gain access to your data, attackers will sometimes employ “rogue hotspots.” A rogue hotspot looks exactly like any other hotspot. It will usually have the same or similar name to a nearby legitimate network. These networks are typically public/open (do not require a password to access) and do not require payment – thereby encouraging connection starved victims to quickly and easily connect. From there, an attacker can gather such information as usernames and passwords, credit card numbers, and even bank account information.

Connecting to an open and unpaid Wi-Fi hotspot can be tempting, especially if you are in a hurry or need to send an important email. However, the consequences may be harsher than a minor inconvenience. Stay safe when connecting your devices by using the following tips:
  • Enable your firewall. Your computer’s firewall is a program that acts as a barrier to keep dangerous information from entering your computer, and sensitive data from being extracted.
  • Do all online banking at home. Every attacker’s dream is to gain direct access to your bank account. Accessing banking information while traveling or in public can be a costly mistake.
  • Turn off sharing. It is not uncommon to share files or printers at home, but this can be an opening for attackers while traveling.
  • Do not auto-connect to Wi-Fi. Some computers will automatically connect to any hotspots with the same name. Attackers can take advantage of this. While manually connecting to Wi-Fi every time can be a minor hassle, dealing with a stolen identity or wiped bank account will be much worse.
  • Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN allows you to send all your data through a secure and private network. This network simulates a safe home network, even while you are out in public.

Learn how to keep your Wi-Fi from going rogue:

  • If two Wi-Fi networks have the same name, one may be malicious. One network may be secured while the other is not.
  • Be wary if you have a password to log into the Wi-Fi, but no input is available.
  • Look for most coffee shops, hotels, airports, etc. that require you to agree to terms and services and open their own website in the browser.
  • Hotspots that require a password from the establishment are more likely to be legitimate.
  • If you are unsure which network is safe to connect to, take the time to ask an employee or call the front desk to confirm.

Have questions? We're here to help!

If you have questions about cybersecurity, or if you want to learn more about how to stay safe online, contact the Information Security Office (ISO) at: