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Hackers Target Wi-Fi Hotspots to Exploit Company Data

Blog post   •   May 13, 2014 16:02 BST

by Jon Ashley(@jonmashley)

Partner Services Marketing Manager Cisco Services EMEAR

Whilst reading some of the latest news around data and corporate information security, I noted the added concern of hackers becoming even more determined to find exploits in corporate infrastructure, especially those mobile workers who may log on to company networks from public Wi-Fi hotspots. And, with the considerable rise in the availability of public wi-fi hotspots (now estimated at more than 12 million globally), cyber criminals are exploiting this growing trend of accessing networks from public places such as coffee shops.

Corporate data seems to be the new modern day oil with the criminal fraternity falling into two camps – those who wish to take data in order to sell it to the highest bidder, or the bedroom hacker or “hacktivist” who does it to test their own skills and gather trophies. Indeed, the latter is more likely to be sucked up into the world of crime as the often exaggerated riches become just too much of an enticement to ignore. Public Wi-Fi is as good a hunting ground as any.

Fuelled by mobility and the rising use of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), attackers are looking for soft targets to exploit networks, and are on the lookout for those innocent users who logon from the local coffee shop without the safety of a VPN, attempting to trick them into connecting to a hotspot that mimics those seen in cafes, pubs and coffee shops.  

These attacks, known as “man in the middle” aims to compromise a device, change the DNS configuration, and replace IP addresses with domains under criminal control, redirecting any requests without the user’s knowledge and intercepting sensitive information.

A recent example of this type of attack was seen at the European Parliament, which was forced to turn off its public Wi-Fi system after it discovered that a man in the middle attack was being performed through its service.

With more and more of us using cloud based applications to access data that may be off the corporate network, this is even more of a problem as most of these services do not use the secure HTTPS protocol.

To what scale this has become a problem is somewhat unknown, but with the rise in attacks on networks from Wi-Fi hotpots, there is a need to ensure vigilance.  Communication and warnings to users when accessing corporate data whilst on the move are essential, and ensuring that devices carry the latest patches and updates to the VPN to avoid both costly and potentially damaging breaches in security are vital armouries in the fight against the hacker community.  

Follow the Cisco Security blog for the latest information on exploits and vulnerabilities and how you can secure your corporate networks and data.  https://blogs.cisco.com/tag/security-2/


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