A researcher at Sophos has come up with a very simple answer to basic security on free wireless connections such as the ones you would find at coffee shops.  It is so simple that you might wonder why no one has thought of it before.  By simply applying the password ‘free’ to all WiFi hotspots, so that everyone already knows what the password is, you will enable the encryption available through WPA2.  That will mostly protect you from nastiness from programs like Firesheep and possibly even WireShark.  Check it out over at Slashdot.

“In the wake of concerns about FireSheep sniffing credentials from people using unencrypted public WiFi hotspots, a security researcher has proposed that the problem does not just lie with big websites like Facebook, but also with those who provide free wireless internet access. Chet Wisniewski, a researcher at security firm Sophos, proposes that all free WiFi hotspots should be encrypted — with the password ‘free.’ ”I propose standard adoption of WPA2 and a default password of “free.” Whenever you wish to connect to complimentary WiFi, you select “Courtyard Marriott” or “Starbucks” like you always have, but you are then prompted for a password. Just type “free”. It’s not hard. In fact, operating system vendors could even program your PC to automatically try the password “free” before prompting you for a password on the assumption that you might be selecting a free service.'”

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