A WiFi network is a great asset to access the internet from anywhere around its range wirelessly. Previously for accessing the internet, users needed to connect LAN wires to their devices. This limits them to a specific place for using the internet. However, with the evolution of WiFi, the internet is now everywhere.
Though WiFi networks have revolutionized the technological world, they have also invited some unwanted guests. Cybercriminals always search for the medium that they can easily exploit and target a large number of devices together, and WiFi provides them exactly that.
You might often notice security experts stating that connecting to the public WiFi is unsecure and dangerous to your system and privacy. It is mainly because public WiFis are loosely encrypted, making them vulnerable to hacking. However, it is not just public or open WiFis that are vulnerable to hacking. Even the WiFi network you use in your home or office, secured with a password, can be hacked by skilled hackers and used to spread the malware.
In this post, we will discover how malware can spread through WiFi, the types of attacks conducted through WiFi networks, and how to secure your WiFi network from threats.
Can Malware spread through WiFi?
The short answer is YES. Malware programs can be easily spread through WiFi networks to all the connected devices. If one device within a network is infected and the hackers get control of it, they can use the infected device as a host and WiFi as a medium to reach other machines to infect them.
Sometimes even a WiFi router can host a malicious program. This generally happens when the latest security protocol is not enabled on the WiFi router. Malicious actors can place malware directly through a port. It can also act as an observer and monitor your incoming and outgoing traffic. This is the reason why you are advised not to connect to a public network, as most of them run on a cheap router that does not include the WPA2 protocol.
After detecting that a virus has compromised their system through a rogued network, most people think that the virus will be gone after they get disconnected from the WiFi network, and their device will be back to the normal state. However, this is not true.
In most cases, the intruders physically install the malware in the machine, and it will remain inside it even after the device gets disconnected from the network. So until you remove the malware from the system, it will remain a threat to your device.
How does Malware spread over WiFi?
Malicious programs and files tend to spread through networks, and since WiFi is also a network, cyber attackers use it as a medium to infect every device in its contact. If one device in a WiFi Network catches a virus, others automatically become vulnerable to it. But if other devices have a robust security solution installed on them, they can resist the attack and stay secure.
Take an example of a biological virus. When a person is infected with a virus, it gets spread to others through the air when the infected person is in close range. In this case, the infected person is a host, and the air is a medium, just like WiFi. In this case, also, the person with a good immunity can resist the attack and stay secure.
Let me just list out the steps how malware can be spread through a WiFi Network:
- The hacker exploits the weak network and finds security loopholes in a device to infect it with a malicious program or file.
- The intruder initiates the malware spread to other devices using the infected device as a host and WiFi as a medium.
- Most other devices in the network without a security program would get infected with the malware without any action from their side.
- After the malware is dropped on the devices, it will start doing what it was meant for.
- Even if you disconnect from the rogue network, the malware will still remain on your device. WiFi was just a medium.
What type of Attacks can hackers conduct through WiFi?
By taking advantage of the weak security of a WiFi network, hackers can conduct the following malicious activities:
Man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks are the most common cyber-attacks performed by exploiting the WiFi networks. It is a form of eavesdropping in which the attacker place itself in between the communication happening on a network. It generally occurs when the network is not securely encrypted to hide the conversations. Through MitM attacks, the intruders can not only eavesdrop and collect valuable information but also modify them.
Exploiting the File Sharing Feature
Many modern devices come with file-sharing features that let them share huge files using WiFi. However, while you are using this feature, the attackers can exploit it and introduce trojans, ransomware, or other malicious threats to your device.
This is another popular way to hack into devices using WiFi. The attacker creates a malicious WiFi hotspot with a famous brand name such as Pizza Hut WiFi, McDonald WiFi, or others. It is done to lure users into connecting to them. When users get connected to such malicious networks, the attackers can silently hijack their session, collect the information, and even release the malware on their device.
How to prevent Malware Attacks through WiFi?
Now that you know that Malware can spread through WiFi, it becomes essential to follow security measures to prevent attacks on your device through WiFi.
Follow these tips to stay protected:
- Never connect to an open public WiFi network. Most of them are weakly encrypted or not encrypted at all.
- If you have to connect to the public WiFi because of urgency, never do that without enabling the VPN. A VPN can hide your private information and secure your privacy while on unsecured networks.
- Keep the WiFi of your device disabled when not in use. Also, disable the auto-connect option.
- Never share your sensitive information on the sites without SSL certificates. To verify whether the site has an SSL certificate, check its URL. If it starts with HTTPS, it is secured with an SSL. If it is just HTTP, it is unsecure.
- Disable the file-sharing feature and app on your device when not in use.
- Make sure that your device’s Firewall is always turned ON to keep an eye on your network.
- Keep installed a robust security solution like MalwareFox on your gadgets to remove malware in case it gets infected.
YES. Using modern attacking techniques, cyberattackers can infect a WiFi router with malware. They can use it to monitor the network as a third party or infect other systems connected to the network.
It is possible to hack a home WiFi network in various ways. Cybercriminals can do that by hacking tools or easily look up the default password associated with a given type of router and use it to access countless devices. Hackers can also exploit the security flaws in the router’s firmware.