Did you know that during the course of this year, the number of Wi-Fi connected devices will exceed the world’s population? This incredible statistic highlights the ubiquitous nature of Wi-Fi. However, the convenience of having public Wi-Fi available practically everywhere comes at the cost of greater risk to users. This infographic delves into the anatomy of a Wi-Fi hack and simple precautions Wi-Fi users should take to ensure that they are surfing safely.

Free Wi-Fi: Friend or Foe?

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Infographic by Veracode Application Security

Wi-Fi connected devices are no longer for the tech-savvy; they are now the norm. This year, the number of Wi-Fi connected devices will exceed the world’s population. With these increases comes an increase in the usage of Wi-Fi, especially on public networks. Public Wi-Fi is now available everywhere from airports to the metro station. With the convenience, however, comes greater risk. It is easier than ever for hackers to gain access to personal information through these unsecure networks.

The Growth of Wi-Fi Connected Devices

Not only is the number of devices increasing, the amount of traffic on those devices is also increasing rapidly.

  • By 2016, 1 in 4 mobile users will have more than one connected device.
  • 9 percent will have three or more Wi-Fi connected devices.
  • In 2011, global mobile data traffic grew 133 percent.
  • It’s estimated to grow another 110 percent this year.
Device Percentage who use Mobile and Wi-Fi Networks Percentage who use only a Mobile Network
Android 32% 68%
iPhone 71% 28%
  • While data usage on Android phones has surpassed that of iPhones, 39 percent more users on the iPhone utilize both mobile and Wi-Fi networks.
  • Tablets are at risk as well—90 percent are Wi-Fi-only devices.
  • The number of public Wi-Fi hotspots is estimated to increase by 350 percent over the next 4 years.

How Do Wi-Fi Hacks Happen, and What Does it Mean to You?


This involves a malicious actor using readily available software to intercept data being sent from, or to, your device.

Example Scenario: You’re at a local coffee shop using the free Wi-Fi login to an email account that doesn’t encrypt your login credentials. A malicious actor is sitting in his car outside, using free software to capture the information you submit. He is able to access your account information and potentially use the same login credentials to access other accounts you use, such as online banking or online shopping.


This attack involves sniffing data packets to steal session cookies and hijack a user’s session. These cookies can contain unencrypted login information, even if the site was secure.

Example Scenario: You’re on your favorite social networking site and suddenly your status is updated without you doing so. When you started that browsing session, a hacker was eavesdropping and hijacked your browsing session. While she does not necessarily have your password information, she can impersonate you during that open session to access your messages and send information to your contacts.

Evil Twin/Honeypot

This is a rogue Wi-Fi network that appears to be a legitimate network. When users unknowingly join the rogue network, the attacker can launch a man-in-the-middle attack, intercepting all data between you and the network.

Example Scenario: You are at the airport, waiting for your flight. You take advantage of the free Wi-Fi, but there are multiple networks to join. You choose the one with the best connection, unaware that it is a rogue Wi-Fi network created by a hacker. Once you are connected, the hacker steals your sensitive data.

Are We Really Being Safe?

  • 85% of users understand that automatic sharing should not be enabled when on public Wi-Fi.
  • 62% of users actually have those features turned off.

How to Stay Safe

Here are some simple precautions to take to ensure a safer browsing experience:

  • Confirm the exact network name - At a coffee shop? Check with the barista for the exact name of the network to ensure you are not connecting to a fake network.
  • Use encrypted websites - When logging into websites, go to the encrypted version of the page. To get there, enter https:// before the site address (e.g. https://www.yoursite.com).
  • Avoid doing online banking on a public network
  • Turn off automatic sharing/Wi-Fi connecting - You might not even realize that you are connecting to an unsecure network if you have Wi-Fi automatically enabled and turn Wi-Fi off when not in use.
  • Keep your operating system and security software updated at all times - This ensures that you have the latest security patches deployed to help protect against hackers.
  • Ensure that your Firewall is turned on - This is your first line of defense against malicious intruders.

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    Fergal Glynn joined Veracode in 2008. Fergal is currently responsible for lead generation activities including content marketing, blogging, search engine optimization, webinar marketing, social media, and optimizing the marketing and sales funnel. Fergal spent his first two years at Veracode as a Product Manager.



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