Stay safe: think before you connect

Student uses phone in crowd

Published October 10, 2018

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

It only takes one careful moment to keep your devices 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 it?"

For instance, at UB, eduroam is the recommended Wi-Fi network for students, faculty and staff. It is encrypted and administered by UB--it's also available at hundreds of other participating universities worldwide, so you can take it with you when you travel. UB Connect is not encrypted but still controlled by UB. It is only intended for visitors to UB or to connect 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 would find it – 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.