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Wireless Security Tip: Don't Connect Automatically

I have a quick tip that will exponentially increase your laptop, tablet, or even phone security. When you're setting up your wireless connections, there are 2 options that you should never turn on: 1) "connect automatically when this network is in range" or "start this connection automatically" and 2) "connect even if the network is not broadcasting".

You can blame hidden wireless networks for this gaping security hole. The How-To Geek has a really good article explaining why you shouldn't use hidden wireless networks.

Why should I turn off these convenience features?

When you use the auto connect features of WiFi, your device will seek out the wireless connection. In the process of seeking out the connection, it also broadcasts the connection information. Devices such as WiFi Pineapples can be built to scan for the broadcasts coming from your devices. Once it has found a device, it automatically configures a matching connection and allows you to connect. Once you're connected, your internet traffic can be monitored.

The following comes directly from the product information of Hak5's WiFi Pineapple:

You see most laptops have network software that automatically connects to access points they remember. This convenient feature is what gets you online without effort when you turn on your computer at home, the office, coffee shops or airports you frequent.

Simply put, when your computer turns on the wireless radio send out out beacons. These beacons say “Is such-and-such wireless network around?” Jasager, German for “The Yes Man”, replies to these beacons and says “Sure, I’m such-and-such wireless access point – let’s get you online!”

Of course all of the Internet traffic flowing through the pineapple such as e-mail, instant messages and browser sessions are easily viewed or even modified by the pineapple holder.