Logging onto a free Wi-Fi network can be tempting, especially when you’re out running errands or waiting to catch a flight at the airport. But this could have serious cybersecurity consequences. One popular Android app, which allowed anyone to search for nearby Wi-Fi networks, was recently left exposed, leaving a database containing over 2 million network passwords unprotected.
How exactly were these passwords exposed? The app, which had been downloaded by millions of users, allowed anyone to search for Wi-Fi networks in their area. The app also lets users upload their Wi-Fi network passwords from their devices to its database for others to use. When the database was left exposed and unprotected, anyone could access and download its contents. Each record in the database contained the Wi-Fi network name, its precise geolocation, its basic service set identifier, and the network password in plaintext. Because the app didn’t require users to obtain permission from the network owner, it would be quite easy for a cybercriminal to modify router settings and point unsuspecting users to malicious websites. What’s more, a threat actor could also read unencrypted traffic that goes across a wireless network, allowing them to steal passwords and private data.
Thankfully, the web host was able to take down the database containing the Wi-Fi passwords within a day of being notified. But it’s important for users to be aware of the cybersecurity implications that free or public Wi-Fi presents. Check out the following tips to help protect your data:
- Change your Wi-Fi password. If you think your password may have been affected by this exposure, err on the side of caution and reset it. Be sure to make your new password complex and unique.
- Keep your network password private. Wi-Fi networks could be susceptible to a number of threats if their passwords are left in the wrong hands. Only share your passwords with family, friends, and those you trust, and never upload your password to a public database for strangers to use.
- Safeguard your online privacy. Use a security solution like McAfee Safe Connect to encrypt your online activity, protect your privacy by hiding your IP address, and better defend against cybercriminals.