Hotspots, public wi-fi could cause breaches to security


art by Maddy Mueller

John Flanegin

In 2003, the tiny island country of Niue, which is 1,500 miles northeast of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean, became the first nation to offer free wireless internet access throughout the 100 square mile country.
Since then, municipal wireless networks — or the concept of turning an entire city into a wireless access zone offering free Wi-Fi to all inhabitants and visitors— have been sprouting up in cities across America and the globe.
According to the Pew’s Internet Project, 98 percent of people aged 18-29 owned a cell phone. With technology quickly becoming one of the fastest growing industries and affecting every facet of our lives, people of all ages are now clamoring to be on a connection at all times.
Demographics of all ages seem to be evolving  into zombies plugged into airport plug-ins and becoming ever dependant on wireless connections in almost every location, with restaurants, stores and some forms of public transportation implementing free Wi-Fi. Checks are deposited at the tap of a finger, shoes bought in seconds and finances managed all within this public “cyberspace.”
Hackers, too, have taken a long look at these technological advancements and are beginning to hunger for a whole different reason. There are more than 4.5 million public Wi-Fi hot spots in the world, and these hot spots are expected to reach 5.8 million just next year, according to a report commissioned by the Wireless Broadband Alliance.
A hot spot can be described as a site that offers Internet access over a wireless local area network (WLAN) through the use of a router connected to a link to an Internet service provider. Hot spots typically use Wi-Fi technology.

“I wouldn’t do anything of importance over free Wi-Fi. I would wait and do that on something that’s more secure like your home network that requires a password.” Dennis Murphy, media specialist”

These connections are a disguise for a hacker waiting in the back of the restaurant or bus to take information from unsuspecting victims. Bank account numbers, credit card and debit card information can be stolen in a blink of an eye with hackers watching people’s every move as they scroll through someone else’s smartphone on their fabricated hot spot.
Senior Petar Marinov is always on his phone, striving to help others when they need advice on technology. For him, using the school’s network helps immensely.
“I see [Wi-Fi] as a great way to stay connected,” Marinov said. “However, high privacy sites, such as online banking sites, should not be used over [un]secure Wi-Fi networks.”
RBHS media specialist Dennis Murphy has been quick to educate students on how easy it is to lose information and control of your own identity on a wireless network.
“In most places, there’s always a danger of somebody intercepting something that you’re sending using that Wi-Fi,” Murphy said. “So someone can always hack it.”
Junior Megan Sherman admits to being on her phone during school hours, but stays safe by limiting what she does on  the CPS network.
“I know information can be taken from your phone,” Sherman said. “And it’s not very private.”
Sherman, like many other students, has taken an approach to constrain her shared information over the internet in general not just on public connection.
“I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily scared,” Sherman said. “Mainly because I do not put anything that puts me at risk or that I wouldn’t want my grandma to see on my phone.”
While Murphy has noted that no dilemmas have happened yet on the CPS networks, there can always be actions taken to maintain your safety while on the internet.
“Number one, I wouldn’t do anything of importance over free Wi-Fi. I would wait and do that on something that’s more secure like your home network that requires a password,” Murphy said. “Number two, I would stay away from Facebook and things like that and putting any kind of information out there because those are open to hackers at all times.”
Marinov sees no reason for alarm and believes it is highly unlikely that any RBHS students could compromise such information.
“The chances of personal information being taken over the school network are not significant,” Marinov said. “It is unlikely, since most sites use encryption. I personally disable Wi-Fi and use cellular data whenever I am using eBay, PayPal or viewing bank information.”
By John Flanegin
Art by Maddy Mueller