Cybercrime has been rapidly increasing nowadays. Many internet users face threats and security issues due to their data being stolen or misused. Hearing of these instances has caused lots of paranoia in people.
You may be perplexed and probably wonder: can someone hack my computer through WiFi? People who do not have much technical knowledge might think there is no way to hide from hackers. The reality is quite different, though.
Yes, hackers can break into your system through your WiFi connection. But there is no need to stress out over it while using the internet. Taking some simple steps can help you avoid any breach of security. For this, firstly, you need to identify if the network connection has been hacked.
How To Identify A Hacked Network Connection?
Here are some things you can check to figure out if a hacker has broken into your system through the network connection:
- Your network usage is much higher than usual, resulting in a significantly slower speed.
- Sudden deactivation of an anti-virus program or any malware.
- Unusual and unrecognized activity on your system such as uncontrollable cursor movement, new files, software, etc. Hackers can enter your data system, misuse, or alter them, download other software or malware, etc.
- Variation in the default homepage of your browser may be the result of hacker invasion. This happens because the browser redirects to a different page. The hackers sometimes redirect the user to a fake page to steal any valuable data.
- An unidentified software or program requesting your network access.
If you aren’t sure and keep thinking,’Can someone hack my computer through WiFi?’, just check for these signs.
How A Hacker Enters Your Computer System Through WiFi
When hackers are within your WiFi range, they will use DNS (Data, Name, System) Hijacking to access your WiFi router. It is also called the MITM (Man In The Middle) attack. A hacking system interferes with the signals between your computer and your router, attaining personal confidential data such as passwords, user identities, emails, account numbers, pins, etc.
Hackers use a different technique if they are outside the limits of your WiFi. Here are some examples of ways in which cybercriminals hack your computer. Keep reading to learn “can someone hack my computer through WiFi?” and how to safeguard your computer against such attacks.
Hacking Computer Through Local WiFi
If your device is connected to a local network, hackers can access it if they are in close vicinity. Most public networks are unsecured and very easy to hijack. The possibility of a hacking attempt is very much viable since you have connected your device to a free public network.
Another way your device can be hijacked is if you connect it to your workplace or neighbor’s WiFi that has been hacked earlier. This makes your device an easy target for the hacker.
All sorts of devices connected to any hacked WiFi network will be under the hacker’s attack. It can be a laptop, computer, iPhone, iPad, smartphone, tablet, etc. Once a hacker gains physical access to the same WiFi as yours, they can potentially hack your device.
Man In The Middle Attack
Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attacks are a sort of cyberattack that allows hackers to listen in on a conversation between two hosts. The “man-in-the-middle” assault takes place between two lawfully interacting hosts. It allows the cybercriminal to secretly become a part of the discussion they are not allowed to access through normal means.
To know what a man-in-the-middle attack is, you first need to know how your computer connects to the WiFi connection. All DSL, cable, and fiber-optic WiFi users connect to the network using a WiFi router. The information goes back and forth between your computer and the internet via the router. A detailed look into this process is mentioned below:
- The computer will detect the nearby WiFi router to connect to the internet.
- Every computer has a network card with a distinct MAC address for identification. When a user enters the correct password, the router will send its unique MAC address to the computer. This means that the computer has the router’s MAC address, and the router has the computer’s MAC address.
- Once your computer receives the router’s address, all the internet information will then be directed through the router.
For hackers to access your data through WiFi, they have to find out the router’s MAC address by connecting to an accessible local WiFi router. It then converts the MAC address of the hacker’s computer to the MAC address obtained from the router.
This way, all information of the devices connected with that router will also be directed towards the hacker’s device with the same address. Thus, the hacker acts as Man in the Middle.
The hacker as a middleman will be able to see all the information sent and received with the help of specific data collection tools. Whether it is a URL accessed by the user or personal information (user ids, passwords, or numbers), all of it will be visible and stored on the hacker’s device.
The hacker can also interrupt and redirect users to fake websites. For example, when a user is transferring money to another account, the hacker can change the account number to redirect the money to a different account.
If your WiFi really is hacked, the hacker can also see you searching ‘Can someone hack my computer through WiFi?’ To secure yourself from cyberattacks, make sure to use a website with a secure browser protocol, i.e., ‘HTTPS’ instead of an ‘HTTP.’
The ‘s’ in HTTPS represents a secure connection that encrypts all sent and received information, usually making it inaccessible to the hacker. A padlock icon beside the URL represents a secured website. Meanwhile, an HTTP connection does not encode the information, making it easily accessible to a hacker.
How The Router Can Be Hacked
For a cybercriminal to hack your router is a piece of cake when:
- There is no password protection on your router.
- Your router has an ordinary password (like 12345678), or the default password is unchanged.
- The router has an outdated authentication protocol like a WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy).
The primary step to secure your router from a cyberattack involves changing its login credentials. Try to set up a unique and long password. The more characters in your password, the more difficult it is to crack.
A password of at least 15 to 20 characters is recommended. Also, altering the default SSID (Router or network name) as the default router name will help the hacker identify your router type. Long and more complicated names are preferable because they improve your router’s WPA security.
A would-be hacker can easily hack a router with an old router protocol (such as WEP) within no time. Also, WPS (Wireless protected setup) is a bit secure, but a hacker within your network’s range can access it easily. A WPA (Wireless Protected Access) connection is a much more secure option, provided the credentials are strong.
However, WPA with the TKIP encryption method is also exposed to cyberattacks to some extent. The latest wireless security protocols like WPA3 and WPA2 (AES encryption algorithm) are by far the most secure protocols.
Hence, users having routers with WEP, WPS, and WPA should update to WPA2 or WPA3 protocol, if possible, for enhanced authentication strength.
Unless you are a billionaire or celebrity, the cybercriminals will not hack your system connected to the router with WPA or advanced WPA protocols. Remember that these advanced protocols are not 100% secure from cyber hackers. Yet, it requires considerable resources to hack such a secure connection.
How To Tell If Someone Hacked Your Router
The presence of an unfamiliar device connected to the local WiFi network is the most significant sign depicting a hacked router. Encountering such a device might alert you to think: can someone hack my computer through WiFi?
If your router allows looking at connected devices, you can easily detect a hacker’s device. Go to the router settings and disconnect all unknown devices.
Another option is to download an application for network scanning. You can view connected devices and scan for any vulnerable, open ports with these apps. Remove all unknown devices and turn off features like remote access, screen sharing, etc.
How To Protect From A MITM Attack
Still worried if someone can hack your computer through WiFi? Try to adopt preventative measures to avoid MITM attacks before they occur rather than managing the ongoing ones. Maintaining a secure network requires awareness of your browsing habits and detecting potentially dangerous sites. Here are some best practices for preventing MITM attacks from jeopardizing your browsing.
As discussed above, you must set up a lengthy and exclusive password and a unique network name (SSID) to prevent a cyberattack.
Router Protocol And Firmware
Switch to WPA, WPA2, or WPA3 protocols, and turn off WEP or WPS for enhanced connection security. Also, install the router’s firmware updates available on the manufacturer’s website.
Unlike home networks, scanning and locating strange devices on public networks is impossible. In this situation, you can secure your device from a cyberattack using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN service allows you to search securely by encrypting your information.
The encrypted information will look like gibberish sent back and forth to a hacker connected to that public network. Hence, the hacker will not be able to steal your credentials or the URLs you are using.
For maintaining adequate security, make sure to consider the following things in VPN software:
- Speed: Select a VPN software with the highest speed.
- Paid version: Choose a paid VPN software to utilize the optimum features rather than a free VPN.
- Trustworthy VPN provider: Check the credibility of the VPN provider. As VPN searches on your behalf, it becomes a man-in-the-middle. Hence, the VPN provider must be reliable enough not to misuse your data.
- Compatibility: Opt for a VPN software that is compatible with all your devices.
Always search using HTTPS browser rather than HTTP. HTTP is an unsecure browser and allows hackers to view your credentials in plain text. HTTPS is encrypted, ensuring a secure search. Browser plug-ins are installed to force HTTPS websites while browsing.
Public Key Authentication
A Public key authentication is used at multiple stages of the network to confirm that your connection or communication is not a spoof.
Hacking Computer Remotely
A hacker within your wi-fi range is someone who can hack your computer. The next thing that comes to mind is whether cybercriminals can remotely hack your home WiFi from far away.
Absolutely not! Even if the hackers can crack your home WiFi password, they can not access it beyond the range of 300 feet. In most circumstances, hackers will be unable to access your computer when it is turned off. But there are several ways they can remotely access your systems, such as spyware or ransomware.
Something similar happened with Jeff Bezos. Jeff accidentally acquired malware through a bogus WhatsApp message that self-installed on his phone. This malware began transferring his personal information to a server in another country.
If installed on our computers and other devices, similar spyware can put us at risk. This virus provides remote access to the device, allowing hackers to control it. It’s also possible that the spyware is a keylogger.
A keylogger records all the keys that you tap when using your computer. In this case, your credentials like passwords, pins, credit card numbers will be all accessible to the hacker. An HTTPS or a VPN will not be of any use in this situation. The only way out of this is to install anti-virus software or firewall to overcome any security breach.
It is a common misconception that Macs are virus-free. Research shows that they are not malware-free. Thus, installing antivirus or antimalware software on your computer and other devices is a good practice for security concerns.
You can opt for antimalware software with additional features. Never hesitate to pay an extra buck when your security is in question. There are additional security features in paid firewall versions. Try to choose antivirus software that offers a VPN as well.
To sum up, always be aware of hackers. Can someone hack my computer through WiFi? Definitely yes! Whether it is for regular browsing or one that requires your personal information, always make sure to use a safe and secure connection. Take the preventive measures mentioned above to secure your home WiFi or while using a public network. It is better to invest in an authentic VPN and antivirus software than to compromise cyber security.
Several online platforms offer courses related to cyber security, ethical hacking, cyber threat prevention techniques, etc. You can easily enroll yourself to learn more about them.