How To Protect Your Business From 8 Common WiFi Security Threats

By Joe Aucott
January 12, 2024

If you saw our recent article about our 10 predictions for Cyber Security in 2024, you'll have seen the growing number of threats that businesses face in their digital infrastructure. While most people are aware of threats such as ransomware and phishing attacks, there is one topic that doesn't get discussed enough; WiFi security threats.

As businesses increasingly rely on wireless networks for their day-to-day operations, the risk of WiFi cyber threats escalates. WiFi networks, while convenient, open doors to various security challenges, including unauthorised access, data breaches, and network disruptions. These vulnerabilities can have dire consequences, ranging from loss of sensitive information to substantial financial and reputational damages.

Understanding and mitigating these threats is imperative for businesses to safeguard their operations, protect customer data, and maintain trust.

The Basics of WiFi Security

WiFi Network security is a critical aspect of modern business operations, aimed at protecting data and maintaining network integrity. At its core, it involves safeguarding the wireless network from unauthorised access and threats.

Basic Concepts of WiFi Network Security

Wireless network security fundamentally hinges on ensuring that only legitimate users have access to the network. This is achieved through robust authentication processes and access control mechanisms.

Alongside this, encryption plays a pivotal role. By encrypting data transmitted across the network, businesses can prevent unauthorised interception and misuse of sensitive information. Additionally, consistent network monitoring and management are essential.

Regular checks for vulnerabilities and unauthorised access attempts help in maintaining a secure wireless environment.

Frequencies and Their Impact

Efficient frequency bands are fundamental to an effective WiFi network. Typically, WiFi operates on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. The selection of a frequency band impacts several aspects of network performance, including range, speed, and interference levels.

Lower frequencies, like 2.4 GHz, are known for their wider coverage but are more susceptible to interference from various office or premise devices. In contrast, the 5 GHz band offers faster data transmission speeds and reduced interference but has a limited range.

The choice of frequency band should be aligned with the specific needs and layout of the business environment.

WPA3 Encryption and Its Significance

The advent of WPA3 encryption marks a significant advancement in WiFi security. As the latest security protocol, WPA3 enhances the protective features of its predecessor, WPA2. It employs more robust encryption methods, utilising 128-bit and 192-bit encryption keys, which significantly elevates the security level of wireless networks.

One of its notable features is improved protection against offline dictionary attacks, courtesy of its forward secrecy protocol. For businesses, upgrading to WPA3 is crucial in safeguarding against increasingly sophisticated cyber threats, ensuring that their wireless networks remain secure and resilient.

Currently, there are two available WPA3 modes available:

  • WPA3-Personal: employs a 128-bit encryption key, shared between the access point (AP) and the client prior to setting up a Wi-Fi connection. This system enhances key exchange security through its Forward Secrecy protocol, offering robust protection against offline dictionary attacks.
  • WPA3-Enterprise: implements 192-bit key encryption. Additionally, it incorporates a 48-bit initialisation vector, ensuring a baseline level of security.

Common WiFi Security Threats

Although deceptive practices are frequent, numerous instances exist where unintentional, albeit negligent, actions lead to significant security breaches. Here are eight of the most common risks to WiFi networks:

1. Piggybacking

Piggybacking refers to the unauthorised use of someone else's WiFi network. It often occurs when a network is left unsecured, allowing outsiders easy access. This can lead to network congestion, reduced internet speeds, and potential security breaches.

piggyback

To prevent piggybacking, it's crucial to secure your WiFi with strong encryption, use complex passwords, regularly update these passwords, and disable WPS (WiFi Protected Setup), which can be a vulnerability if left enabled. Monitoring network usage for unknown devices is also an effective strategy to detect and prevent piggybacking.

2. DoS (Denial of Service)

DoS (Denial of Service) attacks specifically targeting WiFi networks are a significant threat. In these attacks, the perpetrator aims to overwhelm the WiFi network with excessive traffic, leading to network disruption or complete shutdown.

This can be executed through various means such as flooding the network with data requests or exploiting network protocol weaknesses.

DoS attacks on WiFi networks can cause significant operational disruptions, making it crucial for businesses to implement strong network security measures, including robust firewalls, traffic monitoring, and response plans to quickly mitigate such attacks.

3. Passive Capturing (Eavesdropping)

Passive Capturing, often termed as eavesdropping, is a significant threat to WiFi networks. In this type of attack, an unauthorised individual uses a device to intercept and record data transmitted over the network. This can include sensitive information such as passwords, email content, and personal data. The attacker doesn't need to be logged into the network, making it a stealthy method of data theft.

To defend against passive capturing, employing strong encryption protocols like WPA3 is essential, as it encrypts the data being transmitted, making it unreadable to unauthorised interceptors. Additionally, businesses should consider implementing network security measures such as regular monitoring for suspicious activities and educating users about secure network practices, like avoiding unsecured WiFi networks for sensitive transactions. Regular security audits can also help in identifying and strengthening any weak points in the network security infrastructure.

4. Rogue Access Points

Rogue Access Points are unauthorised WiFi access points set up by attackers within the range of a legitimate network.

These points can deceive devices into connecting through them, allowing attackers to intercept sensitive data. To combat this, businesses should regularly scan their networks for unrecognised access points. Implementing strong encryption and authentication protocols can prevent unauthorised devices from joining the network.

Additionally, educating employees about the dangers of connecting to unknown WiFi networks and using Wireless Intrusion Prevention Systems (WIPS) can help in detecting and preventing rogue access points.

5. Evil Twin Attacks

Evil Twin Attacks involve setting up a malicious WiFi access point that impersonates a legitimate one. This can trick users into connecting to it, thereby exposing their data.

evil twin attacks 1

To defend against these attacks, it's crucial to educate users about verifying the legitimacy of WiFi networks before connecting. Security measures like using HTTPS for all online activities and employing VPNs can provide additional protection.

Businesses should also consider implementing advanced security solutions that can detect and alert against unusual network activities, including the presence of unauthorised access points.

6. Password Attacks

Password cracking attacks are a prevalent method for cybercriminals to gain unauthorised access to WiFi networks. Attackers often use various techniques to guess or crack network passwords.

To prevent these attacks, it's essential to create strong, complex passwords. A robust password should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols, and should avoid common words, personal information, or predictable patterns.

Regularly updating passwords and using advanced password management tools can also enhance network security against such attacks.

7. Man-In-The-Middle (MITM) Attacks

Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks occur when a hacker intercepts communications between two devices on a network. During such attacks, the attacker can steal sensitive information or introduce malware into the network.

mitm

To mitigate the risk of MITM attacks, it's advisable to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when connecting to public WiFi networks. VPNs encrypt data, making it difficult for attackers to intercept and understand it.

Additionally, it's important to avoid accessing sensitive information, like bank accounts and credit card details, on public WiFi networks where security cannot be assured.

8. Configuration Issues

Configuration issues, including misconfigurations or incomplete setups, are common vulnerabilities in WiFi networks.

Many consumer-grade access points come with default settings that lack adequate security measures. These can include weak passwords, default network names (SSIDs), and minimal security protocols.

Users might inadvertently leave these settings unchanged, making their networks easy targets for attackers.

To prevent such vulnerabilities, it is crucial to use a centrally managed WLAN (Wireless Local Area Network) system that allows for regular security audits and coordinated updates. This approach ensures stronger security configurations and reduces the risk of unauthorized access.

WiFi Security Issues - The Causes and How To Fix Them

Security ThreatCausesPotential Fixes
PiggybackingUnsecured networks, easy outsider accessStrong encryption, complex passwords, monitor network
DoS AttacksOverwhelming traffic, exploiting weaknessesFirewalls, traffic monitoring, response plans
Passive Capturing (Eavesdropping)Unencrypted transmissionsStrong encryption (WPA3), security audits
Rogue Access PointsUnauthorised access points set up by attackersNetwork scanning, strong encryption and authentication
Evil Twin AttacksMalicious APs mimicking legitimate onesUser education, HTTPS and VPN use, network monitoring
Password AttacksWeak or predictable passwordsStrong, complex passwords, regular updates
Man-In-The-Middle AttacksInterception of communicationsUse of VPNs, avoid sensitive transactions on public WiFi
Configuration IssuesDefault settings, inadequate security measuresCentrally managed WLAN, regular security audits

How To Protect Your WiFi Network from Security Threats

There are numerous measures you can take to mitigate the seven wireless network threats previously mentioned. Here's a concise list of recommendations:

  • Encourage your team to create robust passwords, possibly using a password generator.
  • Limit network access strictly to approved users. For guests needing access, establish a guest account with distinct privileges on a separate Wi-Fi channel, using a different password, to safeguard main login details.
  • Secure your SSID by modifying its name, altering default settings, and turning off its visibility to other users.
  • Utilise WPA3 encryption for your data, which is currently the most advanced encryption available.
  • Set up a firewall on each host.
  • Advise caution regarding file sharing:
  • Avoid sharing files on public networks.
  • Set up a dedicated file-sharing folder with controlled access.
  • Refrain from enabling full hard drive sharing.
  • Turn off file sharing when it's not in use.
  • Regularly update and apply patches to all wireless access points.
  • Employ a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to facilitate secure network connections for remote employees.

Now is the moment to begin addressing these security methods to prevent a security breach. Not doing so could jeopardise not only your sensitive data but also your company's reputation.

Advanced Protective Measures for Your Business WiFi Networks

It's crucial for businesses to go beyond basic security measures to safeguard their WiFi networks. Advanced protective measures are essential to proactively detect, prevent, and respond to sophisticated cyber threats.

Implementing these measures, such as intrusion detection systems, regular security audits, and robust security policies, not only enhances the network's resilience against attacks but also helps in maintaining compliance with industry standards and protecting sensitive data. This approach is integral to a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.

  1. Intrusion Detection Systems: Implementing intrusion detection systems (IDS) is vital for identifying potential security breaches. These systems monitor network traffic for suspicious activities and alert administrators to any anomalies that could indicate a security threat.
  2. Regular Security Audits: Conducting regular security audits helps identify and address vulnerabilities in the network. Audits assess the effectiveness of existing security measures and recommend improvements, ensuring the network's defenses are updated and robust.
  3. Creating and Enforcing Security Policies: Developing comprehensive security policies is essential for maintaining network integrity. These policies should outline user responsibilities, acceptable use guidelines, and protocols for handling security incidents. Enforcing these policies ensures that all users are aware of their role in maintaining network security.

Employee Training and Awareness

Employee education plays a crucial role in preventing WiFi security threats. Educating staff about the types of threats, how they manifest, and their potential impact is key.

Training should include best practices such as identifying suspicious emails or links, using strong passwords, and understanding the importance of network security protocols.

Regular updates and refresher courses ensure employees stay informed about new threats and the latest security measures. Encouraging a culture of security awareness can significantly reduce the risk of successful cyber attacks on the organisation's WiFi network.

Staying Ahead of the Threat Curve

As WiFi security threats continue to evolve, staying informed and adaptable is crucial. This means regularly updating knowledge on the latest cybersecurity technologies and practices. It's important for businesses to keep their security systems up-to-date and to be aware of emerging threats. You could also consider carrying out WiFi network penetration testing or even in-house ethical hacking to stay ahead of gaps in your security layer.

By staying informed about the latest developments in WiFi security and adopting new, more effective security measures, businesses can better protect themselves against these ever-changing threats and maintain a robust, secure network environment.

Protecting Your Business From WiFi Security Threats - The Key Takeaways

  • WiFi security threats are rising; awareness and preventive measures are crucial.
  • Basic WiFi security includes strong authentication, encryption, and regular monitoring.
  • WPA3 encryption offers advanced protection against cyber threats.
  • Common threats include piggybacking, DoS attacks, passive capturing, rogue access points, evil twin attacks, password attacks, MITM attacks, and configuration issues.
  • Preventative measures include strong passwords, regular updates, secure setups, and network monitoring.
  • Advanced protective measures include intrusion detection systems, security audits, and creating security policies.
  • Employee training is vital for network security awareness and threat prevention.
  • Staying updated with evolving cyber threats and security technologies is essential for network security.
Joe Aucott