Image courtesy of satit_srihin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
ARS Technica recently published an article on the security of inflight Wi-Fi. Providers like GoGo Wireless and Global Eagle Entertainment offer passengers to pay for use of Wi-Fi services. While customers may think their communications and activities are secure, think again, says USA Today columnist Steve Petrow. Mr. Petrow was “hacked” while on an American Airlines flight – a man claimed to have been able to read his email communication with a source for a story. Given the overall Wi-Fi security lapses, as addressed in this post from ComputerWorld, it is easy to begin to understand how this can happen. But what can be done about it?
First, Wi-Fi on an airplane operates similar to public Wi-Fi networks. Access is granted through a “captive portal” where you have to provide login details and/or payment info and accept the terms of service. Once that is done – the user is granted access to the web. There is no password protection on the connection, which means the traffic that is carried on the Wi-Fi network’s packets is being transmitted in the clear. This means anyone listening can grab the data that passes through the access point.