Earlier this month, a study was released that revealed the results of the most in-depth research to date regarding global public Wi-Fi hotspot deployments. What researchers found may not be surprising considering the fact that consumers are now requesting instantaneous access to information from any device, whether that’s in the office, the home, or on the go.
In today’s mobile era, wireless access is no longer a benefit; it is a necessity. As public hotspots are spreading rapidly to coffee shops, libraries, trains and restaurants all over the world, it is estimated that global hotspot numbers will grow to more than 340 million by 2018, equivalent to one hotspot for every 20 people on earth.
The hotspots, usually offered free of charge, are designed to fill gaps in coverage left by mobile networks. Unlike cellular networks, which are usually run by three or four service providers in each country, hotspots are controlled by many different entities, including independent cafes and retailers.
The vast majority of public hotspots, nearly 34 million, are located in homes, with service providers such as Comcast adding technology to their routers enabling almost anyone within the vicinity to access free Wi-Fi. It is projected that “homespot” public wireless will see explosive growth over the next several years, rising to 325 million in 2018. There are many implications to this wireless free-for-all. Through a wireless man-in-the-middle attack, an attacker with malicious intent can easily set up a rogue network and mimic the SSID in order to steal personally identifiable information such as usernames and passwords.
The dramatic increase in public wireless availability and variety of service providers raises questions about security. The report discovered that in those locations where there are multiple services offered, the service with the lowest barrier to entry is almost always the most popular. This is oftentimes associated with minimal security and a lack of encryption.
Using public Wi-Fi in your favorite café, a train station or in someone’s home can have serious consequences. How can you avoid being victim to a malicious attack? Connecting to WPA2-Enterprise and authenticating via 802.1X ensures network traffic is encrypted and secure. Onboarding solutions such as JoinNow make offering secure, encrypted wireless as simple as possible for customers.