Security of Internet Connection

Not sure where to post this

This is a question about security while accessing the Internet.

I am staying at a motel and they have both Wi-Fi and Landline access to the Internet.

Most people - including the front desk clerk - would say that a wired Internet connection is more secure, but I am suspicious of that!

If I was at home, on my own personal DSL account, sure, wired Internet access is much more secure than using some free wi-fi spot. But how do I know that I am not plugging into some network at this motel where they can spy on my computer?!

Sure, it may seem paranoid, but plugging my laptop into the wall of a foreign Ethernet jack where I don’t know where it goes seems like a REALLY BAD IDEA in my mind?! :-/

So what is the deal with connecting to the Internet when you are away from home?

How can I be sure I am not plugging into some rogue network?

How can I be sure they can’t see on my laptop?

What are the risks of this wired setup versus wireless access at the motel?

Any networking or security experts out there that can help educate me?

Thanks,

Debbie

You don’t know for certain. But if you use Wi-Fi it is prone against eavesdroppers because Wi-Fi is ‘ad hock’ and simple attacks like Man-in-the-middle are easily performed.

Thus at a bare minimum you’d need the Wi-Fi to have WPA encryption in place unless of course you don’t mind the prospect of people intercepting your correspondence.

So I’d advise against using any sites that would need an HTTPS connection or had specifically sensitive/private data transfer during your stay if you chose Wi-Fi.

The Ethernet hard wired should theoretically be more secure assuming they haven’t installed hardware/software key loggers or anything weird.

Yes, I’m familiar with what you’re saying.

So, exactly how ahrd is it to “eavesdrop” on an unencrypted wi-fi connection?

If I was a “bad guy”, how exactly would I go about eavesdropping anyways?

The Ethernet hard wired should theoretically be more secure assuming they haven’t installed hardware/software key loggers or anything weird.

See, my concern is this…

At home, a phone line is plugged into your phone jack and your DSL modem. From there, an Ethernet cable connects the DSL modem to your computer. Pretty straight forward.

But at this motel, all I see is an Ethernet jack that I am supposed to plug into my laptop.

It is not like I can see that Ethernet jack going directly to a DSL modem and then to a phone jack.

How do I know that I am not plugging into someone’s network?

And how do I know that when I plug into this Ethernet jack that someone can’t see on to my computer just like if I plugged into any other LAN?

Now, I’m no networking person, so maybe this isn’t possible, but it just freaks me out when this is a smaller ma-and-pa motel and I have no way of knowing what lies n the other side of that Ethernet jack and the wall… :shifty:

Any Networking gurus out there that can shed some light on this?

Debbie

Using unencrypted “public” Wi-fi is probably lunacy if you need to do anything that requires a password to be submitted in any form.

Unsecured Wi-Fi is ad hock meaning in effect it is like peer-to-peer so any computer within range (theoretically) will be able to connect and intercept any unencrypted data signal within physical range even if you use a password.

Although obviously the password will slow the casual surfers from “accidentally/automatically connecting”. Without first trying to guess the password or use software tools to bypass, etc. Think of a local radio station everyone can listen if they tune in. But possibly your Firewall setup may help warn you a little form other machines if they connect directly to your PC.

The wire basically requires someone to actually physically tamper with the other end, e.g router/server first before it becomes compromised.

So what is the alternative when you are away from home?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man-in-the-middle_attack

Interesting.

Although obviously the password will slow the casual surfers from “accidentally/automatically connecting”. Without first trying to guess the password or use software tools to bypass, etc.

What tools are there to do that?

The wire basically requires someone to actually physically tamper with the other end, e.g router/server first before it becomes compromised.

I don’t think you’re understanding my original question…

I’m not concerned about someone tapping into a Cat5 cable. My concern is that how do I know that I am plugging my Laptop and Ethernet cable into a dedicated DSL connection and not into someone’s LAN where they could jump directly on to my Laptop?!

(In the old days when you plugged your PC/Laptop into a Modem, you knew it was a Modem because the interface was a phone line. But DSL and LAN’s use the same type of cabling, so how do you know what you are plugging in to?!) :shifty:

Debbie

There are plenty of freely available tools and programs will be able to acquire passwords and compromise the unsecured wireless signal. I don’t think SitePoint would agree to me naming them, etc. It’s not something that interests me anyway “intercepting weakly protected signals”.

Regarding the wall-socket it will probably be a standard input jack; what it connects to may vary depending upon building, etc. So I cannot help you much on that. If it were a college it would probably first go through their LAN to 24-port switches. Then into a 24-port routers, which in turn are connected to an ‘internet router’ via a telecommunications service.

For myself, when traveling I first have a “road” laptop with nothing sensitive on it. Or if there is anything sensitive it’s obvious to me that I should protect it.

Then I use SSH to set up a tunnel to my own server that acts as a proxy to the internet for me, so even on an unsecured network all my traffic is encrypted from my laptop to my server endpoint.

If you must visit websites from unsecured wifi locations use only https (SSL) sites.

I always stay in well-known lodging chains, and to a certain degree you have to trust them.

If you are that concerned, then it does not really matter. Although still, I think wired connection is more secure option, because wifi accesspoint would most probably plugged in that very same wired network and you require more physical access to connect to that, than to wifi from that grey van over street. So by not using wifi you are actually eliminating one attack vector.

As to what options you have when connecting to a potentionaly hostile network: VPN connection to trusted network, using SecureSOCKS proxy, not connect to any website that requires non-anonymous access (any site that requires you to log in or be logged in already).

You might want to read about the hype of last days - FireSheep (I’ve started a topic about it in security subsection of this forum).

Oh, and most probably you are connecting into someones LAN either way.