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12/12/2017
09:45 AM
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Employees on Public WiFi Rarely Face Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

Employees' corporate mobile devices are connected to WiFi networks on average 74% of the time.

While a majority of corporate employees connect their corporate mobile devices to WiFi networks, only a small percentage face man-in-the-middle attacks, a report released today finds.

Wandera's WiFi Mobile Security Report, based on a November sample of 100,000 corporate mobile devices on its network, revealed:

-74% of wireless data usage on average relies on WiFi

-12% of WiFi hotspots used by employees are open, lacking encryption

-4% of corporate mobile devices came into contact with a man-in-the-middle attack

"Even though it was 4% in November, it's usually about this level day in and day out," says Dan Cuddeford, Wandera's director of sales engineering. "Despite what people think, your phone is not constantly being attacked. If you go to Starbucks, an attacker cannot attack all the devices. They have to have a stronger signal than those they are attacking."

The man-in-the-middle attacks ranged from intercepting data leaks to compromising the device's trust model, the report notes.

And although 12% of employees use unsecure WiFi hotspots, the report notes it could have been worse, given 24.7% of WiFi hotspots worldwide use no encryption. These results hint to the possibility employees are taking some care in avoiding unsecure hotspots, the report states.

WiFi Over Cellular

Cellular networks, says Cuddeford, are far safer than WiFi, yet employees connect their corporate mobile devices to these networks only 26% of the time.

"We have never seen man-in-the-middle attacks on cellular networks in the wild. It could happen in theory, but it is so much easier for attackers to do a WiFi attack that they don't bother with cellular networks," Cuddeford says.

He speculated companies may be prompting employees to use WiFi as often as possible as a means to cut costs on roaming charges that would be incurred if they were connected to cellular networks.

"The takeaway for CISOs is more of their mobile devices are connecting to WiFi than cellular and although the number of these devices are increasing, the number of them connecting to encrypted connections is not," Cuddeford warns.

Hotels accounted for 25% of the open WiFi hot spots employees use, followed by airports at 20%, the report states.

Whether at a hotel or airport, Cuddeford says employees should turn off their device's WiFi capabilities unless they intentionally want to connect to a hot spot. That reduces the odds their corporate mobile device will automatically connect to a spoofed WiFi network.

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Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

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