Windows 10 has a shiny new feature called Wi-Fi Sense. As with anything new in technology there is some confusion and misinformation regarding this new feature. There are sure to be hoaxes, rumors, and bad information accepted by the ignorant as fact over this one. I wouldn’t call it controversy just yet but I can see it getting turned into one when it doesn’t need to be. They “Don’t Confuse Me with Facts” crowd seems to be getting larger and louder no thanks to social media. With Wi-Fi Sense you can automatically log friends onto your Wi-Fi network without giving up your password. It is meant to be convenient and more secure solution to the allow friends access to your network than sharing your Wi-Fi password. No more awkward questions or setting a temporary password for visitors so long as they are also using Windows 10 on the device they want to connect with. The goal being ease of use for that house guest that brings their laptop everywhere and less hassle for you.
The Security of Wi-Fi Sense
The Wi-Fi Sense feature is enabled by default on Windows 10. Sharing your networks through Wi-Fi Sense is not enabled by default. You must intentionally decide to share your Wi-Fi network by selecting a box that states “Share network with my contacts” when logging in.
If you choose to share your Wi-Fi, all of your Facebook, Skype, and even Outlook.com contacts will be able to use your Wi-Fi when their Windows 10 PCs devices in range. They won’t need to enter a password to connect. Of course if they are using an Android or Apple device they wont be able to take advantage of Wi-Fi sense. You will still need to share your password for friends without a Windows 10 device.
It is important to note that your friends connected to your network via Wi-Fi sense will not be able to share your network with other people through their device. No need to worry about a neighbor on your Facebook friends list sharing your wireless with people.
Wi-Fi Sense does store your password. The password is stored on a Microsoft server. The password is encrypted and useless to a hacker should they break in and steal the file. Windows 10 also won’t allow you to share corporate Wi-Fi networks or bypass their security protocols.
The Danger of Wi-Fi Sense
But what about that email contact that you can’t particularly trust or aren’t really on good terms with? You probably do not want that person accessing your network, but Wi-Fi Sense doesn’t allow you to restrict or sort access by the individual. You can share with all your contacts or none of them.
People can do some bad things with access to your network if they don’t care for you and have the technical know-how. Other devices connected to your network, like your computer, game consoles, and smartphone could be vulnerable to attack. You wouldn’t want anyone steal photos, emails and other personal information or files.
Your contacts shouldn’t have access to other computers and devices on network via Wi-Fi Sense because “Network Discovery” is off, but hacking is about finding exploits so it still can make some nervous. It would be difficult for somebody to use Wi-Fi Sense to access your private files or other devices, but not impossible.
The Bottom Line
I don’t know about you, but I generally don’t invite people into my home that want to steal from me or mess my stuff up. Hackers don’t waste their time hacking individual personal accounts personal computers or devices. Unless you are famous or running a server you aren’t going to be hacked. But let’s say that for some strange reason somebody wanted to. Even then doing it through Wi-Fi Sense would require that person to sit outside your house to hack into your network from a Windows 10 computer. Not going to happen. Not ever. Not anywhere. It is much more productive for a hacker to go after a server and use it to distribute malware to people crazy or ignorant enough to run Windows without an anti-virus solution.
You are probably safe using Wi-Fi sense unless a serious security exploit is uncovered and remains unpatched. This is always possible but I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. Crossing the street is dangerous too but you still do it. If you are still worried don’t get out your tin foil hat just yet. Just “_optout” to the end of your Wi-Fi network name and you can sleep at night without farfetched nightmares of people stealing your nude photos with Wi-Fi Sense.
There are sure to be rumors and social media hoaxes galore over this feature in the coming years. I just thought it would be good to get out ahead of them. If anything I’ll have the satisfaction of saying that I told you so when your Facebook friends start hitting share on this one. If a bone fide security issue comes up do us all a favor. Install the patch and skip the rumor mill.