Tech Minute: The Wi-Fi Pineapple and Small Business
The Internet is a life staple. Think about it, what isn’t Wi-Fi enabled in your life? From our cars to our coffee pots, the Internet of Things (IoT) has taken over our everyday lives.
Along with the growth of Wi-Fi enabled devices, comes a greater number of entry points for hackers to infiltrate. Smart devices, in many cases, give hackers what’s known as “backdoor” access to personal information, sensitive data, and bank account access.
Basically, hackers can sneak into your device and steal your information all because you logged into your account(s) on a Wi-Fi network. If your mind isn’t blown yet, wait until you read how they do it.
What Is the Wi-Fi Pineapple?
This is not a Wi-Fi fruit salad. This pineapple is a “middle-man” so to speak. Pineapple devices are usually small-discreet boxes with wireless antennas. Those antennas search for access points (AP) or Wi-Fi routers to imitate. Once imitated, they send out stronger signals which prompt your device to select it as your Wi-Fi choice.
Let’s use Starbucks Wi-Fi as an example. You're looking for Wi-Fi and notice a very strong Starbucks Wi-Fi signal, even though there aren’t any Starbucks around. That could be a Pineapple device imitating a signal that people trust.
Or, even more scary: you’re IN a Starbucks and notice two Wi-Fi networks. One called “Starbucks Wi-Fi” and the other named “Free Starbucks Wi-Fi.” Which one is the real Starbucks Wi-Fi? Connect to the wrong one and hackers can now monitor your Internet traffic. Once they can monitor your Internet, they start collecting your credentials and can send you malicious files.
What It Means for Small Business
While you may not be connecting to Starbucks from your office building, hackers can still set up Pineapples to infect your office. Wireless devices are set to auto-reconnect to the last network it connected to. Hackers use this to their advantage. They scan office building complexes to see if any Wi-Fi connections have vulnerabilities.
While looking for these vulnerabilities, known as probe requests, hackers can easily see which companies have lax Wi-Fi routers or AP security and imitate those signals. Having this information allows them to infiltrate your system as you auto-connect to their Pineapple, instead of your office Wi-Fi. Now the hacker has access to not only your device, but any shared information from your servers as well.
How to Protect Yourself
The downside: Companies will never be fully secured from Wi-Fi Pineapples. They're constantly evolving with newer hardware and new attacks. The unfortunate reality with IT security in general is that it’s an uphill battle. There are thousands of security experts worldwide working to stop hackers, but there are just as many (if not more) cyber criminals trying to poke holes in their security barriers.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Not protecting yourself from IT security threats is like leaving your door unlocked because, “they'll get in either way.” Why make it that easy?
The upside: There are several security defenses that your managed IT service provider can set up to combat hacker Pineapples. It starts with a strong Wi-Fi security process, including the proper router and AP configuration, as well as advanced security tools to prevent your AP and router from responding to the Pineapple's probe request.
Let’s not forget about mobile users either – and remember “mobile” doesn’t only mean cell phones. Tablets, POS, and any other “on-the-go” devices count as mobile and should be properly secured. These kinds of devices are more likely to connect to public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi locations are the most targeted areas and pose the greatest risk to the security of your company.
Wireless is here to stay, and the convenience is impeccable. As our everyday hardware is getting more powerful, the number of threats targeted at them is growing. Talk to your IT service provider about ways to protect your company from these risks.
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About Accent Computer Solutions
Accent Computer Solutions, Inc. is a managed IT services and IT support provider, serving businesses with 30-500 employees throughout Southern California. The company is headquartered in Rancho Cucamonga, California, with IT professionals strategically located throughout San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles, and Orange Counties, as well as Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana.