To the average person, terms like ‘wifi hacking’ conjure images of super hackers or government spies with Matrix-like computer tech. However, in reality, someone hacking your wifi could be chatting to you as they do over a cup of coffee.
That’s right. Wifi hacking is terrifyingly easy. Here we’ll, therefore, look at common attack types, as well as how you can protect yourself.
How Wifi Hacking Works in Simple Terms
To understand how wifi hacking works, it is important to understand what wifi is.
At its most basic, wifi is just a radio signal traveling from one device to another. The job of a hacker is, therefore, to either intercept this signal without you knowing or convince you to send information to them.
Here, we won’t delve into how to hack wifi. (For security reasons.) However, we will look at common attack methods and how to thwart these.
Wifi Hacking by Sniffing
Wifi network sniffing is by far the easiest way to steal data from unsuspecting wifi users. All a hacker needs to do is configure a wifi receiver to grab data packets from the air as they are being transmitted between devices.
Whenever you visit a website and enter a password or download a file from the Internet over wifi, all the raw data you send and receive is transmitted in packets of ones and zeros. This being the case, stealing data is easy.
- Hackers position a wifi receiver in a range of networks and record all the data being sent between different devices.
- The process is essentially the same as a hacker downloading all the data you transmit over wifi onto their computer.
- Once hackers are successful in intercepting a large volume of data, they begin reassembling it on their computer.
Sniffing can be a slow process. However, when hackers reassemble data, they essentially have copies of any files you were sending or receiving online.
They can also see what websites you were visiting, as well as details of any text you were entering into websites.
How to Prevent Sniffing
The easiest way to prevent a hacker from sniffing your data is to use a VPN. When you use a VPN all data that you transmit over the Internet is end-to-end encrypted.
As a result, hackers can still snatch data packets from the air. However, encrypting data means that these data packets can never be put back together by hackers.
Wifi Hacking and Hotspot Spoofing
Sniffing data packets is a lengthy but effective way of stealing data that you transmit over wifi. However, a much easier way to get this data is for you to give it to hackers directly.
To fool you into sending data to them, hackers often clone the SSID of legitimate routers. This works best in areas where free public wifi is available. All a hacker has to do is clone a hotspot, make the signal of their hotspot stronger than the original, and people will connect to it.
- Often, you won’t ever know you have connected to a cloned hotspot, as hackers will still grant you access to the Internet.
- Your device might connect to a hotspot clone automatically if the SSID is the same as a hotspot you regularly connect to.
- Like with sniffing, hackers will make copies of all the data you transmit across the Internet.
As it stands, connecting to a spoofed hotspot can see a hacker steal everything from your email address passwords to your online banking credentials.
How to Prevent Spoofing
Like with sniffing, the easiest way to prevent hackers who spoof hotspots from stealing your data is to use a VPN. This is because any data they can steal will be impossible to decrypt, making it worthless.
Wifi Cracking and Denial of Service Attacks
Sniffing and spoofing are essentially just ways to intercept data being transmitted via wifi. These attack strategies are, therefore, usually put into practice in public spaces.
When you are at home using your own wifi network, stealing data becomes more difficult. However, it is not impossible.
- Tools exist which hackers can use to crack the WEP or WPA keys that keep your home network secure.
- Hackers can use packet sniffing to wait for one of your devices to connect to your router. When it does, they may be able to capture your password and network security credentials.
- Tools exist that wifi hackers can use to make your devices keep disconnecting from your router. These give them more opportunities to try to sniff for your security credentials.
Do your devices constantly need to reconnect to your router? If so, someone may be causing that to happen on purpose.
How to Prevent Cracking Attacks
As a rule, most people won’t realize that their wifi security has been compromised for weeks, possibly months after an attack. However, just like sniffing and spoofing, you can protect yourself by using a VPN.
Is it time that you started taking your wifi security more seriously? To do this we found PureVPN to be the best VPN for wifi security.
Online freelancer, owner of Shielded VPN and long time website creator and designer. Happily married man and father of two amazing boys.