As of July 1, Starbucks company-owned stores in Canada and the USA now provide free Internet access via their WiFi hotspots. This affects over 7500 stores. Starbucks’ June 29 announcement.
This is great news, but please remember that anyone within a radius of several hundred feet (or more) may be sniffing all of your packets and capturing them for decryption and attack later. Don’t be tempted to do banking from a Starbucks hotspot! I wouldn’t even consider it, nor would I purchase anything with a credit or debit card while using a Starbucks (or any other) public WiFi hotspot. Public WiFi hotspots attract cyber-thieves.
For example, anyone could set up an inexpensive clone AP (wireless Access Point) that bridges to the real network. The thief’s AP masquerades as the genuine Starbucks AP. They’d sit in the coffee shop so that their signal is stronger than the real access point, then just sit back, intercept, and capture login traffic. Voilà: cheap and easy account and password collection. Users would have no idea that their accounts had been compromised.
Another easy technique is to use easily obtainable software (most of this runs on Linux, rather than Windows) on the laptop to place its wireless adapter into "monitor" mode and simply capture every packet on the wireless network, write it all to disk, and decipher it later in the comfort of the thief’s home.
Public hotspots are fine for low-security web surfing — but not banking. Here are simple measures that will keep you safer while using Starbucks WiFi Hotspot Security hotspots.
In the world of security, there’s a spectrum that runs from systems that are very convenient but insecure at one extreme, to systems at the opposite end of the spectrum that are very secure but inconvenient. Public WiFi hotspots such as Starbucks’ are WAY too convenient to offer meaningful security.
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Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695