Wireless Internet Tips

While the number of publicly accessible wireless Internet locations or “hot spots” continues to increase, it is important for consumers of New York State to be aware of the dangers associated with surfing the world wide web in an unsecured environment.

While having access to the Internet in a coffee shop or park is extremely convenient, such use may put individuals' privacy at risk. Malicious users have a number of methods available at their disposal to pilfer a digital transmission sent over an unsecured wireless network. Using specially designed tools and software, malicious users can monitor web page activity, chat/instant messaging and e-mail transmissions.

These malicious users may also have the technology available to establish their own wireless network, mimicking those that are preexisting. This rogue network is established in a location within close proximity to the preexisting, trusted network, and designed or named in a similar fashion in an attempt to deceive users. Such networks are often referred to as “Evil Twins.” Unfortunately, users will frequent locations offering free wireless access and may neglect to identify any inconsistencies between the two available networks. Information sent over these "Evil Twin" networks may be susceptible to theft, including but not limited to e-mail, banking information, passwords and so forth.

Considering the risks associated with “hot spot” usage, the Attorney general is pleased to provide the following tips to help ensure that those consumers utilizing such services are well informed and better protected:

  • Enable encryption on your wireless lap top or PDA. For instructions on accomplishing
    this, you may wish to contact the manufacturer of either your wireless device or its
    operating system.
  • Enable security measures on your wireless lap top or PDA . This may include a firewall,
    virus protection or intrusion detection measures.
  • Reconsider transmitting sensitive information such as private e-mail, Social Security
    Number, banking information or other sensitive material.
  • If transmitting sensitive data such as banking information while utilizing a wireless
    network, ensure that the site intended to receive the data utilizes Secure Sockets Layer
    protection. Servers providing such protection can be identified either by a small lock
    located in the lower right hand corner of your web browser, or by the protocol "https"
    preceding a URL or web address.
  • Examine the properties of a wireless network before connecting.
  • If you are utilizing a wireless network for business purposes consider connecting
    through a Virtual Private Network (VPN). You may also wish to consult your employer.
  • Finally, there are free tools available to consumers to help protect against the
    vulnerabilities previously mentioned. One such tool known as AirDefense Personal is
    offered by AirDefense, Inc. and may be downloaded from the link below.