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I would like to know what information is public and can be intercepted in a non-open, but unsecured wireless network. Moreover, is there anything I can do to make it more "secure", other than using https connection whenever possible.

In more details, I recently discovered (with surprise) that the wireless network in my school is actually unsecured. Although not everyone can connect to it (you need a student ID), I am told that certain softwares like Wireshark would be able to intercept the data. Since I have been using the network for all private purposes (email, facebook etc), I do feel quite insecure now and would like to understand the situation a bit better.

I installed Wireshark and tried to play with it but all I can see are something alien to me. In any case, all I see seems to come directly/indirectly from my IP address, and I have long thought that usually different computers in the same wireless network would be assigned different addresses. Am I wrong? If not, then I feel very confused about what information is actually being captured (potentially by other users in the network, since I don't think I could capture activities of others in the same network anyway), and whether it's safe to use the network at all. (Gambling on others in the same network showing good behaviour is apparently not an option.)

Thank you.

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2 Answers

Wireshark is not enough for capturing wireless packets, since they are not broad-casted - you'll need some more tools (e.g. FireSheep)... Anyway, as Bonsi suggested you may encrypt your traffic. There are several options to do so: 1. HTTPS Proxy site (such as ), which is a site that doesn't require any software installed (and thus can be used freely regardless of the computer you're on). 2. VPN software, like those listed here (I found HotSpot Shield and Security Kiss fastest and easiest to use), and there are even better VPN services if you're willing to pay.

Of course, those options are only relevant assuming your own computer is secured properly, and there is no one chasing you specifically.

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Thanks for your answer. There's still one thing that bugs me a lot, which is the reliability of VPN. I am not too sure about how it works, but why would you consider a free (or even paid) VPN to be reliable? (in terms of privacy) –  Sanchez Nov 12 '12 at 8:19
    
(continuing my last comment) Would, for example, a credit card transaction through VPN considered reliable? And why? –  Sanchez Nov 12 '12 at 8:28
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Yes, wireshark could get the data and if you've transmitted passwords over unencrypted channels, then someone might hae captured it.

If you want to be secure from things like this:

  • Don't connect to an unencryted network

or

  • Always encrypt data sent over that network.

The latter can be arranged by using an VPN Server, and the only conection over the unprotected network should be the VPN-Connection, and everything else should be routed via the VPN.

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