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Stay safe: think before you connect

Published October 17, 2017

by Benjamin Blanchet

Before you connect to Wi-Fi, take a moment to think about which network you’re connecting to. 

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Benjamin Blanchet (UB student, Class of 2018) is an English major with an interest in journalism. After graduating from UB, he hopes to attend grad school and pursue a career writing about music and the arts. An Albany, NY native, Benjamin enjoys biking and reading in his spare time.

It only takes a moment of careful thinking to keep your device and information from being compromised.

“‘Free Wi-Fi’ isn’t always ‘free’ in the sense that you don’t know who’s controlling it,” said Dr. Catherine J. Ullman, UB Senior Information Security Analyst.

“If you do business on ‘Free Wi-Fi’ involving things like credit cards, you’re probably going to regret it. So in that sense, ‘Stop. Think. Connect.’ – before you connect, think about where you’re doing that business. Is the network secure and encrypted and who controls the back end?”

At UB, eduroam is our recommended encrypted network. It is also available at hundreds of other participating universities worldwide, so you can take it with you when you travel. UB Connect is not encrypted and therefore only intended for visitors to UB or gaming/media devices.

Dr. Ullman believes safety is important both on and off-campus, and people should be aware of not just what they click, but how they’re connecting.

“Someone – even though we could find it at some point – could put up a rogue access point with the same name as UB’s Wi-Fi,” Dr. Ullman said.

“There’s nothing stopping someone from initially doing that and, if you have your devices set to auto-reconnect – and it’s the same name as something a ‘bad person’ has set up – you run the risk of not recognizing you’re connecting to something malicious.”

Dr. Ullman added, "Many risks can be mitigated just by making sure that your device's software and firmware is up to date, including some of the most recently discovered vulnerabilities such as Krack, Heartbleed and WannaCry."

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month- look out for more tips this month for keeping you and your devices safe.