Last week, the National Security Agency (NSA) issued a warning to federal employees, defense contractors, and military personnel that connecting to public Wi-Fi—free services offered by countless coffee shops, restaurants, and even airplanes— “may be convenient to catch up on work or check email,” but it also gives would-be hackers an opportunity to infiltrate networks. “Avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi, when possible,” the NSA warning says, emphasizing that even Bluetooth connections can be problematic. The document further provides hyperlinks to videos to demonstrate how easy it is for hackers to use open Wi-Fi networks, which typically require no passwords, to harvest passwords and probe the non-encrypted content of cellphones. The NSA warning also urged vigilance against the risk of being spoofed by connecting to Wi-Fi networks that appear legitimate but which, in fact, are phony networks created by criminals or foreign intelligence agencies for the purpose of accessing sensitive information.
The NSA warning is the latest effort by the federal government to combat cyberattacks, which have seen a dramatic rise in frequency and severity in recent months.
Nixon Peabody’s Cybersecurity & Privacy Team will continue to monitor developments.