When we hear about the dangers of public Wi-Fi networks, most of us quickly become dismissive.
“I’m smarter about PC security than the average person,” they say. “I’m very careful about which networks I connect to.”
Well, a recent study from Virtual Private Network (VPN) HideMyAss.com may have you thinking differently.
That “study “involved a seven-year old girl hacking into a stranger’s computer over a public Wi-Fi network in just 10 minutes.
How It Worked
HideMyAss.com recruited a child – with the permission and supervision of her parents – and placed her in a controlled environment. That environment included a purpose-made open Wi-Fi network designed to replicate the average network found on the street.
The seven-year old girl named Betsy used Google to find quick hacking instructions. Then, 10 minutes and 54 seconds later, she was able to setup a rogue access point and begin eavesdropping on traffic to and from the unsuspecting user’s computer.
This so-called “man in the middle attack” is frequently used by hackers. It intercepts data going from the user’s computer to the internet.
Why This is Dangerous
According to a recent study from that same VPN, 2/3rds of UK residents regularly use unsecured Wi-Fi networks. 20% of respondents used public Wi-Fi for mobile banking, or to shop (25%), send emails and documents (31%), and use social media (50%).
When performing any of these activities over a public network, your data could be compromised, putting your confidential information in the hands of malicious hackers.
Obviously, HideMyAss.com had a vested interest in this study: they sell VPNs which let users access the internet from any country while simultaneously protecting their connection.
In the age of widespread internet surveillance and public Wi-Fi networks, more and more people are using VPNs to protect themselves online. Of course, most people are just using VPNs to access Netflix outside of the United States – but that’s another story.