July 16, 2015

With Microsoft taking its last leap with the Windows 10, most tech professionals are looking forward to the new competences added to this operating system. One such feature, that has managed to garner more controversies than commendations, is the ‘Wi-Fi Sense’. Essentially, it is a mode of sharing network information among users. It is designed to allow an easy and quick connection to in-range password protected wireless hotspots within friends. Though Microsoft initially rolled out this Wi-Fi password sharing feature in Windows Phone 8.1, it did not gain much popularity due to its limited user base.

How Does Wi-Fi-Sense Work?

Wi-Fi Sense enables users to share network connection with their Facebook, Skype and Outlook contacts. Working at the back-end, this feature agrees to Wi-Fi terms and conditions, shares log-in credentials as well as connects your friends whenever they are in-range of the network that you want to share. Hence, if any of your friends tries to access your internet connection, Wi-Fi Sense will evaluate his actions and provide access spontaneously, without making the password visible to him. Other users, who are in your contact list and have Windows 10 on their device, will also have their network details shared with you, provided they have enabled Wi-Fi Sense.

Security Risks With Wi-Fi Sense

According to Microsoft’s official sources, the Wi-Fi password is shared in an encrypted form through the company’s internal servers. The user is granted access only to internet connection and not to the files or data stored in your system. However, even the basic sharing of password may compromise the security of your network and make it vulnerable to various hacking attacks. The idea of sharing internet connection can be great for family and friends, but not for corporate settings. Sharing passwords with all your Facebook, Outlook and Skype contacts could also mean inadvertently providing your network information to people whom you barely know.

The best way to safeguard your network from these privacy risks is by taking a few preventive measures. As the feature is likely to be enabled by default in Windows 10 PCs and laptops, make sure you turn it off. However, it is a not a perfect solution for business firms that encourage bring your own device (BYOD) culture. Another option to keep your network out of Wi-Fi Sense is to add the phrase “_optout” to its name. For instance, if your internet connection is named “mynetwork”, you must change it to “mynetwork_optout”.

Considering the security concerns emerging around Wi-Fi Sense, it is recommended that you use 802.1X authentication or implement stricter access controls to your network connection.