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You May Want To Think Twice Before Connecting To Public WiFi As New Study Exposes Dangers Of Probing Requests

The thought of not having access to public WiFi can be extremely daunting to some individuals. No matter where you may be, a lack of internet access is definitely a huge drawback for obvious reasons. After all, today’s world revolves around our digital connectivity.

Did you know that most smart devices are always on the search for any available networks when out in public? This is a default option that goes on establishing connections on your device, in case they’re rendered to be safe.

So many researchers present at Germany's Hamburg University united to conduct a study that exposes wi-fi probing. And you just might be shocked to learn about some of their findings and how they may be doing you more harm than any good.

What users don’t realize is that these probe requests can actually figure out what sort of data you’re transmitting without users getting any hint.

For those that might not be aware, wifi probing isn’t something new. It’s been there for a while now and is pretty standard when you come to think of it. Moreover, it’s a link that connects the public modem with your smartphone device, giving you free internet access.

We already know of plenty of stores that make use of this maneuver so they exactly know where their consumers are and what their current movements may be.

But researchers in Germany feel there might be more to the picture and that’s why they went ahead with the research and tried to figure out what more could it possibly contain.

On average, around 23% of the cases showed broadcasting of SSIDs of various platforms that the smartphones linked with in the past.

This study took place towards the end of last year in the busiest and most populated district of a German city. Moreover, the researchers are believed to have made use of up to six different antennas that captured these probes across numerous spectrums.

For a duration of three hours, all the Wifi connection issues were recorded and all the probing requests had also been gathered. During this time, researchers got hundreds of passwords from home routers in the country.

Now that can be really alarming because getting access means these passwords were easily leaked and detected. This was confirmed through a number of technical maneuvers performed by the researchers.

But there is more shocking news. Along with the SSIDs, researchers also managed to get a hold of strings that could store various internet networks, numerous district names, around three emails, and up to 92 different vacation homes or hotels that were once outlined as being trustworthy.

So many of these sensitive sources of information had been broadcasted multiple times during that same three-hour duration.

But what really is the main problem here, as far as public wifi users are concerned?

Well, it was to do with the way so many users are being tracked without them knowing and without anyone taking their consent.

Yes, your data is getting exposed. Yes, you are becoming vulnerable to more malware. Yes, you are accepting untrustworthy connections too. But the main issue is tracking on a constant basis.

Both Android devices and iPhones have tried their best to eliminate as much tracking as possible, but it is still very hard.

Thankfully, new OS variants don’t display as much data as the rest in such wifi probes and their requests. But still, they’re not 100% safe.

If we had to put it as a rule of thumb, you’re more likely to be more secure if you own the latest version of OS.

Android 8 and older versions were more likely of being attacked but we saw better results with iPhones thanks to the company’s stringent policies.

So, what is the best way to enhance your security from issues like this? For starters, you can consider upgrading your OS. Remember, the newer the version, the more protected you become.

Secondly, you need to eliminate any SSIDs from your device that you don’t need. Remember, they would be in public view and broadcasted for no good reason so why not get rid of them in the first place.

Thirdly, you could learn how to disable networks that have an ‘auto join’ functionality. The process is simple with smartphones of all kinds so this just makes you less vulnerable to any hotspot attacks.

Last but not least, you have the authority to silence any wifi probing requests so there’s nothing better than that. This is related to the advanced versions of your network settings so you can always learn how to do that. Yes, this comes with slower connectivity and loss of battery but we think it’s worth it.


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