When you connect to a wireless network, you run risks that can't be underestimated. Between spoofing and sniffing, our data is in serious danger
It is "on board" our computers (both laptops and, increasingly, desktops), our smartphones, tables and smartwatches, smart devices of all kinds and, in some cases, even cars. Having become indispensable to connect to the Net and visit our favorite sites, Wi-Fi chips are ubiquitous, or almost.
The wide diffusion and the great use of Wi-Fi, however, have ended up making it a tempting prey for hackers and computer pirates. Being able to insert itself inside a Wi-Fi network, in fact, allows to have direct access to all the devices connected to the router or access point. In short, if not adequately protected, a Wi-Fi network represents a danger for privacy and data of all connected users. Also because many of the most dangerous cyber-attacks aimed at Wi-Fi networks are unknown to the average user, and could easily fall victim to them.
Literally "attempted cheating", spoofing is a computer scam that exploits the popularity of some public Wi-Fi networks to intercept the traffic of unsuspecting users. Leveraging devices like the Wi-Fi Pineapple (or, more simply, a laptop with ad hoc software), hackers create open-access wireless networks in the hopes that someone will fall for it. The way it works is quite simple: the hacker creates a network with a "famous" name (like that of a chain of stores that offers free Wi-Fi) in the vicinity of a usually crowded place and wait for someone to connect. At that point, all user data can be monitored very easily, and it is possible to find out which sites users visit and determine their online habits accordingly.
Sniffing and traffic monitoring
Although it resembles spoofing in some ways, sniffing (literally "smelling") is done by means of a device already connected to an existing Wi-Fi network. Hackers, in this case, don't create "fake" networks, but exploit an existing one by "silently listening" to what's going on inside. In simple words, a user already connected to the Wi-Fi network uses ad hoc software to monitor all the traffic of the other users and keep track of it. In this way, not only will it be possible to know the surfing habits, but through an accurate and long analysis, it will be possible to obtain and steal also the access credentials to the various online services.
Wi-Fi networks can be used not only to trace the online habits, but also to monitor the movements of the users within geographical areas even if they are quite wide. In this case, however, it is necessary that the area is covered by more than two Wi-Fi hotspots belonging to the same operator: using the data relating to the strength of the receiving signal, it is possible to perform the triangulation and know the position of the device with a fairly high precision. If we associate this with the possibility of obtaining the identification data of the device, it is easy to understand that, in addition to geolocation, this technique allows you to personally identify the various users connected to your Wi-Fi network.
Security of Wi-Fi networks
Of all the various methods to secure the Wi-Fi network, the most effective (and at the same time, simplest) is to set up password authentication while choosing an appropriate encryption protocol to protect data transmission in the ether. The access to the network with password avoids that anyone can exploit the connectivity of our Wi-Fi and try to spy on our online activities. The cryptography protocol (WPA2 is the most advanced one available today), instead, allows to protect the Wi-Fi network from Man in the middle attacks, making sure that only the "recipient" user of the data is able to read them. In this way, even if someone tried to intercept the packets of our Wi-Fi network, he would end up with a handful of undecipherable data.