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I travel a lot, so I most of the time get Wifi from Hotel or Cafes. I payed attention to the fact that some Wifi does not have security password ! Here is a screenshot of the type of security I found : enter image description here

I usually trust WPA2 Personnel.

Please, I have heard that it is possible to "sniff" the network packets if the hacker is on the same network. not sure if it is true. So I asked this question to get to know more about the best practices concerning Wifi: do I connect to only WPA2 Personnel ? What is WPA ? is there small utility application that allow me to check the information about the surrounding Wifi .... on macosx ?

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WPA is the authentication and encryption system preventing people not knowing the right password to access a Wifi network. However, no matter if it is WPA2 protected or not, you may legitimately not trust Wifi networks from hotels and other public places.

The usual advice in such condition is to use a VPN. It is an application which will build a secured tunnel from your PC to the remote VPN server, ensuring that no matter the Wifi security level your connection will remain secure (no other Wifi user will be able to either sniff or alter your communication).

There are a lot of companies offering such service:

  • Price varying free to a few dozen of dollars,
  • Service varying from giving you only parameters values to providing you a full fledged automated software allowing you to use the VPN with no technical knowledge (the price pay such service, but also speed: cheapest server may be slower),
  • Various VPN servers location around the world. For your use, I would recommend a VPN server in the same country as yours since it will limit the speed loss (by making your traffic make a detour to the VPN server it will be obviously slower than direct one, however the nearest the VPN server is, the less significant the difference would be).
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To check for information about nearby networks using an inbuilt OS X utility called Wireless Diagnostics, follow the steps:

1. Option+Click on the WIFI Menu Icon. 2. Click on "Open Wireless Diagnostics". 3. As Wireless Diagnostics opens, go to Menu Item "Window" and select 'Scan'.

This will show you information about nearby networks. Hope that helps.

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Yes it is true that two devices on the same network can 'sniff' each other. You can see plenty of documentation and examples of this on google.

A brief history lesson: Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) was created as a direct response and replacement increasing number of vulnerabilities in the WEP standard.

personally: I would stick to WPA2 with a strong password on your router. Also: where possible try to use encrypted communications to prevent data being 'sniffed'.

  • Even with what you suggest, if he connects to a malicious Wi-Fi router there will be little security. – Neil Smithline May 16 '15 at 16:38

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