Cybercriminals always take advantage of Wi-Fi guzzling passengers and public networks at Starbucks, airports, and elsewhere aren’t particular secure.
The introduction of WiFi for airplanes is a unique idea, but posses a unique threat because they potentially cram hundreds of Internet users into a small space for hours.
This means cybercriminals have the time to try out everything on unsuspecting victims.
Routehappy, a service that ranks flight amenities, reported in January that passengers on U.S. airlines now have a 2/3 chance of getting in-flight Wi-Fi on all the miles they fly.
According to the report, the prevalence of domestic in-flight Wi-Fi has grown 1,600-fold since July 2013, and the expansion is of course driven by demand from passengers.
Honeywell’s 2014 In-Flight Connectivity Report found that 85 percent of passengers had accessed Wi-Fi on domestic flights, and in-flight Wi-Fi influences flight selection for 66 percent of flyers.
As travelers sate their appetite for Internet, criminals cash in on their vulnerability. If you pay bills, write work emails, or shop online, a hacker with only modest skills has a chance of getting your data.
Most victims make the first mistake when they initially connect to the Wi-Fi network.
Windows machines ask if the network is a Home, Work, or Public connection. Users who choose Home are telling their computer that it can share files with everyone else using the Wi-Fi network, which is low hanging fruit for cyber criminals.
Commercially available hacking devices, like the WiFi Pineapple, are particularly dangerous on flights. The Pineapple pretends to be a home Wi-Fi gateway as it connects unsuspecting users to airline Wi-Fi.
This allows the Pineapple hacker to snoop on browsing activity and access files on the computer. The Pineapple could operate in overhead storage, unbeknownst to passengers.
Technically, in-flight Wi-Fi connections are not better or worse than public networks on the ground. Airlines shouldn’t necessarily be held to a higher standard.
Yes, they could monitor Wi-Fi traffic and detect malicious behavior with products like Silver Tail or FireEye, but it would make in-flight Wi-Fi prohibitively expensive.
Every public Wi-Fi network comes with risks, but in-flight Wi-Fi gives hackers time to try out multiple attacks. If you need to work at 30,000 feet above sea level, take measures to protect yourself and your company.