Can Malware Spread Through a Shared Wi-Fi Connection?

malware

It is hard to imagine the modern world without wireless connections. Wi-Fi routers and Bluetooth devices have become a part of our everyday life. And yet, not more than fifteen years ago, the technology was not that widespread, and we still used local network wires most of the time. Public Wi-Fi hotspots were hard to find, and most mobile devices could not benefit from them, despite being already capable of accessing the web.

Whatever scientists invent, they get the weapon in the end, – the proverb says. And now, as the wireless revolution has already happened, new threats have emerged alongside it. Wi-Fi connectivity requires routers – devices that enable and control the link. All the connected devices receive and send data via the router. Therefore, an attack on the router and malefactors’ access to it is fraught with grave consequences. 

There are several types of attacks exploiting different vulnerabilities of wireless networks. Some attacks aim at routers, while others take advantage of users’ inattentiveness. In the current article, we shall reveal the Wi-Fi-related threats and share tips on avoiding them.

Can Devices Get Infected Via Wi-Fi?

More than easily! There are many methods of using Wi-Fi routers as help or even a direct way to infect the connected devices. The source of malware1 can either lie in one of the connected devices or in the router itself. One infected device is already a threat to the rest of the machines linked to the same hotspot. Against this threat, there is no better remedy than endpoint protection with efficient cybersecurity software.

NOTE: We offer you to study an interesting article about Antivirus scanner and anti-malware. What is the difference?

Another option for hackers is to infect the Wi-Fi gadgetry. Public routers rarely feature encryption of the level that would make it impossible to hack the router. Yet, the antivirus system on the connecting device can still be helpful since criminals may not only steal the data coming through the router but also try to infect the victim’s system with malware.

It is important to know that in either case, it is necessary to take data protection measures after you figure out that something went wrong during the connection to the wireless network. If your computer gets infected – run the deep scanning in your antivirus program. Should you suspect that the Wi-Fi router was unreliable – better change all the passwords you have entered while being connected to that questionable router.

How Does Wi-Fi Spread Malware?

Here are the steps of a typical wireless malware contamination sequence:

  • Hackers infect a device with some malware (regardless of its particular type) specially designed to spread further through the wireless network to every device connected to the router.
  • The infected device becomes a host for of the local wireless network, which, in turn, serves as a medium for the malware to spread.
  • A trustworthy antivirus program can keep the particular device secure. However, unprotected machines may get infected completely unbeknownst to their users.
  • Malware will be spreading to other devices while remaining connected to the medium Wi-Fi network. However, it will keep delivering its vile payload (executing its malicious activity besides self-promoting) no matter whether the device stays connected to the compromised Wi-Fi or not.

What Attacks are Most Likely to Take Place Via Wi-Fi?

Here are the most common attacks that can happen when hackers take advantage of Wi-Fi vulnerabilities:

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

Man-in-the-middle is the classic attack exploiting the weak protection of Wi-Fi routers. Every router is a system that can be connected to and hacked. If crooks manage to hack a Wi-Fi router, they can fit it with that will expose all the incoming and outbound data to the cyberthieves. This type of attack is especially dangerous when targeted, with hackers behind it knowing what they are after. However, accidental passersby are also at risk.

Attack via shared files

Considering the presence of the file transfer feature in state-of-the-art Wi-Fi routers that allow sharing of massive files within the wireless network, users should be especially vigilant when someone shares files within the network. A large file might be a full-fledged malware or a file with scripts commanding the system to download malware with understandable consequences.

Spoofed network name

This kind of fraud is a variation of a man-in-the-middle attack where instead of hacking into someone’s router, criminals bring their own device already fitted with malware. Then they spoof a network name, creating a public hotspot called something like “Public Wi-Fi” or “Burger King Hotspot.” The goal is to lull victims’ attention. They connect to the network they think is safe and inadvertently share sensitive data that the crooks are happy to collect. Spying is not the only malicious activity hackers can manage in this situation. They can also try to inject malware into connected devices as described above.      

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Wi-Fi Attack?

As you can see, attacks via Wi-Fi are more than real. Understandably, the question arises: how do I protect myself? In the list below, you will find the tips that will not rule out the possibility of such attacks but will make your system virtually impenetrable.

  • Avoid public Wi-Fi networks. You literally don’t know what is lurking in there. Rather use mobile Internet – it is much safer. Most of the public Wi-Fi hotspots have poor encryption; some of them use none at all!
  • Disable auto-connection to available wireless networks. It is alright to auto-connect to your known home network, but it is too risky to walk like that in the city. And it is also reasonable to turn off Wi-Fi on your device when you don’t need it. Even as a matter of battery saving. Keep file-transfer functions on your device off when you are not about to use them.
  • Don’t neglect firewalls. A firewall provides a set of rules which apply to your inbound and outbound traffic. Therefore, your firewall will block any unsafe traffic to your device at once. That can save you from many problems.
  • Make sure you don’t input any sensitive data on websites whose URL starts with HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol.) Secure web pages long use the HTTPS \protocol (S for “secure”). These concerns are especially topical when they are about credit card details.
  • Install effective security software on your device. People are often careless concerning anti-malware protection for devices, but nowadays, protecting your portable computer is as crucial as having an antivirus on a stationary home PC. GridinSoft offers a highly efficient Malicious Software Removal Tool. 
  1. What is Malware?

By Stephanie Adlam

I write about how to make your Internet browsing comfortable and safe. The modern digital world is worth being a part of, and I want to show you how to do it properly.

View all of Stephanie Adlam's posts.

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