Weekly Crime Prevention Message From the Desk Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey

By  //  May 21, 2018

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'Free WIFI' comes with some risks, opportunities for cybercriminals

In last week’s message we discussed the importance of protecting our credit cards from skimmers and other mechanisms designed to steal our information, however this week I want to talk to our local businesses about the importance of protecting their “wifi” access and customer’s information who may utilize their “wifi” while patronizing their business.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Having free “wifi” access is cool but it is also risky…

In last week’s message we discussed the importance of protecting our credit cards from skimmers and other mechanisms designed to steal our information, however this week I want to talk to our local businesses about the importance of protecting their “wifi” access and customer’s information who may utilize their “wifi” while patronizing their business.

As I sat in my Doctor’s Office last week waiting to hear him tell me that if I stop playing Basketball my knees will stop hurting (like I didn’t already know that) I took notice of a sign in the lobby that told waiting patients about free “wifi” access that was provided as a matter of convenience for patients. Displayed prominently on the sign was the password for the “wifi” access that was now known to everyone who entered or passed by the lobby of the facility.

While giving free “wifi” access to patrons of businesses is a nice gesture, it could also potentially expose both them and the business to information theft and the compromise of client information. Now without question some businesses, especially the larger businesses or franchises may have security measures in place that would limit certain types of access from the “wifi” location, but if the business does not have those levels of security on their “wifi” access then they are not only putting themselves at risk but also their customers information as well.

The first area of concern is that once a cybercriminal has access to your “wifi” they can use it for any type of activity to include using the business “wifi” to facilitate illegal purchases with stolen credit cards, entering pornographic sites or even capturing credit card data from the point of sale terminal inside the business that is most likely utilizing the same “wifi” system to transmit credit card information to third party vendors.

One of the biggest challenges we face when investigating credit card fraud is tracing the “IP” address of the perpetrator. If they are using someone else’s “wifi” address, that challenge becomes even more significant and often leads Law Enforcement to an innocent party who has unknowingly been victimized by someone using their “wifi” access for criminal activity.

Equally concerning is the fact that once a cybercriminal gains access to your “wifi” system it can and often does become a conduit for them to defeat your security systems while gaining access to your client information or even worse implanting botnets to download malware or ransomware.

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For example, an ad fraud botnet that infects a user’s PC will take over the system’s web browsers to divert fraudulent traffic to certain online advertisements. Essentially, once you allow anyone access to your system you are putting your entire business at risk.

So how do we find a balance for offering our patients and clients a convenient service while also protecting our business and customers information? One of the easiest measures is to frequently change the password of your system so that it limits exposure to cybercriminals and hackers. Another measure that can be utilized is to disconnect your “wifi” system after hours so that you are limiting the amount of time anyone can access the system. And then of course, having an expert in the field of Cyber Security put measures in place to guard your system against unauthorized intrusions and access is an additional layer of protection that helps ensure security for your clients and business.

As always, please feel free to share this information with your family and friends so that we can all work together to help keep Brevard County a safe place to call home!!

Have a great week!

– Sheriff Wayne Ivey

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