The Dangers of the “Pineapple” & Using Public Wi-Fi Connections

If you enjoy browsing the web on a public wireless network at your local coffee shop, deli, restaurant, hair salon, or just about everywhere these days, you should be aware of the security holes that exist in these types of networks.

Left unprotected, your laptop or wireless device can quickly give prying eyes complete access to your sensitive personal data, images, contacts and everything stored inside.

The pineapple pictured above may look like a Spongebob Squarepants toy next to a baby monitor but the benign exterior is quite deceiving. This is a Wi-Fi Pineapple. The Wi-Fi Pineapple takes advantage of the way computers are set to interact with stored favorite wireless access points. Generally, your wireless devices are set up to connect with your home access point in away that they will automatically have Internet access when in range.

Once you connect to a network with a common name like linksys, belkin, or attx, if that favored wireless network shows up again, your computer will instantly connect to it. This is a Probe Request Packet. Probe Requests simplify internet connectivity for the average user making connections appear instantaneous so you can maintain Internet connectivity.

A Wi-Fi Pineapple scans the 2.4GHz band spectrum (the standard of most routers) for these Probe Request Packets, and tells your laptop that it is one of its stores favorite networks. The Wi-Fi Pineapple then provides the laptop with Internet access, assigning an IP address through DHCP. This gives whomever controls the Pineapple full access to the information that you are sending over the connection.

In essence, the pineapple is a Wi-Fi honeypot, a trap. It provides you with an Internet connection while secretly intercepting all of the websites, passwords, and data that you are viewing over the web.

You may ask “How can I protect myself from the Wi-Fi Pineapple?” The easiest way is to avoid open public Wi-fi networks in general. But if you must use them, here’s a quick checklist:

1. Do not connect to a wireless network you are unfamiliar with.
2. Secure your network by connecting to a VPN on your Laptop or mobile device.
3. Try not to type passwords or enter other secure information when you are on a public Wi Fi.
4. Go through your Wireless Connection Settings from time to time and delete the saved ones that you are unfamiliar with.
5. Do not connect to a Wireless Network without your computer’s firewall activated.
6. When you are not using the connection, disconnect. Do not leave it open in the background.
7. And last but not least, keep your eyes open for Pineapples.

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