You’ve probably been in a situation where you desperately need an internet connection for your devices while you’re out and about. Most public places offer free internet. Public Wi-Fi, however, is risky business, and it’s best to avoid it.
The Risk of Public Wi-Fi
Coffee shops, airports, hotels, and restaurants offer their Wi-Fi without a second thought, but most lack proper security measures. Those networks are often the prime spots for hackers to execute their attacks and get access to sensitive information or spread malware. One of the most concerning ways they do this is with a device called Wi-Fi Pineapple.
Primarily, Wi-Fi Pineapple is used by companies specialised for penetration testing networks of various businesses. Even though the original use of the device is to audit wireless networks and test for vulnerabilities, hackers realised they could use it too.
How Hackers Use Wi-Fi Pineapple
Because Pineapple is so cheap (the whole kit costs about $100/£75), hackers use it to get access to sensitive information or spread malware.
- They set it up as a fake Wi-Fi hotspot (known as a rogue access point –rogue AP), which enables them to do an attack called “Man-in-the-Middle” (MitM).
- They fake a network SSID (name) that sounds reputable, like a hotel name, by changing one letter in the name, and then wait for unsuspecting users to connect their devices.
- Once connected, they will intercept all communication between devices and the web.
- Another way they can get your device to connect automatically is to spoof the SSIDs saved by your device.
- When you have Wi-Fi on, your device will actively scan the surrounding for networks that you have saved and enabled auto-connect.
- Your device does this by actually broadcasting the SSID of all saved networks.
- Wi-Fi Pineapple can read those broadcasts, rename its SSID to match one of your saved networks, and your device will automatically connect to it.
It’s always better to tether your internet connection from your phone to avoid those risks.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Tethering Your Internet
Tethering is easy to set up –basically, you use your phone’s data plan to get an internet connection. It can be done via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB.
Advantages of Tethering
- Safer than using public Wi-Fi
- Your personal hotspot; nobody else can use it
- Safe to browse all sites and log in to sensitive websites too (like a bank account)
Disadvantages of Tethering
- Some carriers block this option, and you might have to pay extra fees to use it.
- Can drain the phone battery quickly if the phone is not connected to a power source.
- Can use up your data plan if your connected devices are not set up to treat the connection as a metered one.
Even so, battery drain or a small one-time fee is acceptable when compared to the risk of losing your personal information or business accounts because you used public Wi-Fi.
How to Tether Your Phone
For Wi-Fi tethering, you should go to:
- Settings > Wireless & Networks > Portable (Wi-Fi) Hotspot > Set Up Wi-Fi Hotspot.
- Enter SSID (name) of the Hotspot.
- Choose a security option – always go for WPA2 PSK (safest encryption).
- Set up Password.
- (Optional) Choose an AP Band – 2.4 GHz is the default, but you can go for 5GHz too if your devices support it.
- Turn on HotSpot, find it with your device, and connect to it.
For USB tethering, you should:
- Connect the phone to your device via USB.
- Disable Wi-Fi.
- Go to Settings > Wireless & Networks > More… > USB Tethering and activate it.
- Go to Settings > Cellular or Settings > Personal Hotspot.
- Turn on Hotspot using a slider.
- You can choose to connect your devices via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB.
- For Wi-Fi, you will have to set up Wi-Fi Password first (under Personal Hotspot).
- Bluetooth connection only works with Macs, PCs, and third-party devices;to connect other iOS devices, you need to use Wi-Fi.
- For USB, you will need the latest iTunes on the device you want to connect.
Keeping your personal and business data safe wherever you might be should always be your primary concern. Particularly in this day and age.
Even though public Wi-Fi networks are convenient, you are at high risk every single time you connect to them, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Tethering your internet is simple, convenient, and gives you your very own personal and secure hotspot.