HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – It is one of the oldest tricks in a hacker’s playbook, setting up their own wifi network in a public place and snooping on any computer or phone that logs onto the “free wifi.”
The hack is called “Man in the Middle” or “Evil Twin.”
It’s simple to set up for someone who knows what they’re doing. The cyber snooper sets up a WiFi network on a smartphone or cellular hotspot and gives it a name that’s similar to the legitimate network offered by the coffee shop, hotel, or airport. It might be labeled as “free (fill in the airport name) WiFi.”
Or “Guest (hotel name) WiFi.” It won’t ask for a password.
Once someone logs onto that network the snooper can act as a “man in the middle” to intercept any web traffic between your computer and the internet access.
Think about this the next time you decide to do any online shopping on a public WiFi network. Or when connecting to your bank or credit card accounts. Hackers have been known throughout the years to use this tactic to steal usernames and passwords to all sorts of accounts.
Of course, we all like the sound of “Free WiFi” and most of the time it is safe to log onto the network provided by the coffee shop, hotel, or even church. You can do it safely by following these steps:
- Make sure the free WiFi listed on your phone or computer is the legitimate free guest network. The best way to do this is to ask an employee. It will likely require a password.
- Coffee shops will usually have the correct network and password posted on a sign on the wall or near the cash register.
- Facebook shows free networks as well. From your Facebook home page go to settings and look for Find WiFi. Many businesses list their network name on their Facebook page which is curated into this setting.
- Be cautious of free WiFi networks at large events and in airports. Ask an employee or someone who you trust.
- Never log onto a free WiFi network just because it says “Free Airport WiFi.”
- Hotels are an easy place for cyber snoopers to employ the “Evil Twin” hack from a hotel room.
- If you’re using the hotel’s free internet in your room, connect through the ethernet connection and cable. It’s not only safer, but it will also be faster.
- Be aware that doing banking or shopping on a free public WiFi network is usually not secured. Wait until you get home.
- It’s much safer to use your cellular provider’s 4G or 5G connection.
- Consider using a VPN or virtual private network that encrypts your connection for more safety.
- Turn off “join network automatically,” this setting allows your phone or computer to join any nearby WiFi network automatically and without any notifications.
Many businesses now provide a secured WiFi network and when you connect, you’ll see a pop-up asking if you want to connect and whether it’s secure or open. Remember anything you do on an open network makes it possible for other devices to connect to your computer.
We all love free things but connecting to free WiFi can be costly.
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