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What are the risks and precautions for sharing the cell phone internet with other devices?

Ask questions explains how devices connected to the cell phone’s shared internet may be vulnerable.

I was on the subway and a guy asked me if I could share my internet with him. I shared. Can I get hacked for routing the internet from my cell phone? – Karina

The smartphone’s “access point” or “portable router” feature, which creates a Wi-Fi network so that other devices can use your mobile data connection, is considered secure.

That is, you would not be hacked just for sharing the internet from your smartphone.

But, as always, there is no such thing as perfect security. And it is good to pay attention to some details, mainly because the risk is often greater for the connected devices than for the smartphone.

You should never share via USB. USB opens up several communication channels between your phone and the other connected device. Whether or not this option uses USB, always use Wi-Fi.

Being on Wi-Fi, the most important are the settings of the access point. You should always use encryption, with WPA2 or WPA3 (if available and compatible with the other devices that will use the connection).

Creating an access point with no security or weak password creates risks for the devices connected to it. If the network is without WPA2, any data transmitted through it can be intercepted by those within range of the network.

If you are also using your cell phone’s portable router (with a notebook, for example) and decide to share your internet with someone else, the two devices will share the same network.

Whenever devices share the same network, there is an additional risk. Therefore, it is important to configure the Windows connection as “public” in these cases.

And finally, it is worth remembering that any access granted to another person is always more dangerous than not granting any access.

It is the obligation of the cell phone system to offer the connection sharing feature in a secure manner. This means that no connected device should be able to perform unauthorized tasks – that is, sharing the connection is not something that should “hack” your smartphone.

However, it is always possible that there are security holes, which can breach the barriers imposed by the system and provide access to some resource that should be inaccessible.

In simple terms, the “access point” generates a new communication channel between the connected device and your telephone device. The existence of this channel creates an opportunity for attacks, but that does not mean that an attack is indeed possible.

As always, keeping your smartphone up to date will help prevent attacks.

From a security point of view, it would not be advisable to share the internet with strangers. In practice, we know that there are certain situations in which we must help those who may be having difficulty accessing the internet for something important.

In the end, the most important thing is to know how to judge whether the person who is asking for our help has a good reason for it or if they are really trying to take advantage of our good will to do something bad.


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