Are Wi-Fi hotspots in World Cup Russia host cities secure?

Experts at Kaspersky Lab have evaluated the security of 32,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots in the 11 Russian cities hosting the World Cup.

The upcoming soccer World Cup represents a privileged target for crooks, hackers, and nation-state actors. It is essential for organizations to take care of any aspect related to the event to protect participants, including travelers using WiFi networks in the host cities.

Experts at Kaspersky Lab have evaluated the security of 32,000 public Wi-Fi hotspots in the 11 Russian cities hosting the World Cup. We have explained several times, the risks associated with the usage of open WiFi networks, threat actors could monitor traffic to steal sensitive data and launch MITM attacks against the victims to conduct a broad range of malicious activities.

“A lack of essential traffic encryption for Wi-Fi networks where official and global activities are taking place – such as at locations around the forthcoming FIFA World Cup 2018 – offers especially fertile ground for criminals.” reads the report published by Kaspersky.

“Over a fifth (22.4%) of Wi-Fi hotspots in FIFA World Cup 2018 host cities use unreliable networks. This means that criminals simply need to be located near an access point to grab the traffic and get their hands on user data.”

The study involved volunteers who agreed to travel around the host cities searching for public Wi-Fi hotspots. The experts discovered that around 62.4 percent of hotspots are secured via WPA2 encryption, while another 13.5 percent use another, unknown encryption method.

Of course, the level of protection for the secured networks depends on the security settings, such as the strength of the password used to access the hotspot.

Wi-Fi Russia World Cup

The study revealed that the number of secured networks varies from city to city, the researchers evaluated hotspots in 11 host cities.

Saransk was the most secure city with 72 percent of access points using WPA/WPA2, the cities of Samara and Nizhny Novogorod follow with respectively 67 and 66 percent.

Black flag for St. Petersburg, the least secure host city with just 50 percent of hotspots using WPA2 and 37 percent of access points completely unsecured.

It is important to highlight that even WPA2 protection should be considered totally secure.

“Even a WPA2 connection in a cafe couldn’t be considered as secure, if the password is visible to everyone. Nevertheless, we believe that the methodology used represents the Wi-Fi hotspot security situation in the host cities, with a fair degree of accuracy.” states Kaspersky Lab.

“The results of this research show that the security of Wi-Fi connections in FIFA World Cup hosts cities varies. Therefore. We therefore recommend that users follow some key safety rules.”

Kaspersky recommends also provided best practices such as using a trusted VPN while traveling, below the complete list:

  • Whenever possible, connect via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). With a VPN, encrypted traffic is transmitted over a protected tunnel, meaning that criminals won’t be able to read your data, even if they gain access to it. For example, the Kaspersky Secure Connection VPN solution can switch on automatically when a connection is not safe.
  • Do not trust networks that are not password-protected, or have easy-to-guess or easy-to-find passwords.
  • Even if a network requests a strong password, you should remain vigilant. Fraudsters can find out the network password at a coffee shop, for example, and then create a fake connection using the same password. This allows them to easily steal personal user data. You should only trust network names and passwords given to you by the employees of an establishment.
  • To maximize your protection, turn off your Wi-Fi connection whenever you are not using it. This will also save your battery life. We recommend you also disable automatic connections to existing Wi-Fi networks.
  • If you are not 100% sure that the wireless network you are using is secure, but you still need to connect to the Internet, try to limit yourself to basic user actions such as searching for information. You should refrain from entering your login details for social networks or mail services, and definitely do not perform any online banking operations or enter your bank card details anywhere. This will avoid situations where your sensitive data or passwords are intercepted and then used for malicious purposes later on.
  • To avoid becoming a cybercriminal target, you should enable the “Always use a secure connection” (HTTPS) option in your device settings. Enabling this option is recommended when visiting any websites you think may lack the necessary protection.

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