Security experts warn computer users of the dangers they face when using many free public Wi-Fi hotspots.
It may sound like something out of a James Bond movie, but it would seem that hackers are now taking advantage of wireless hotspots in order to clean unsuspecting users out of their hard-earned cash.
Security experts warn that cybercriminals may be masking themselves as free public Wi-Fi providers to gain access to the laptops of travelers sitting in airports or at the train station. It seems that all it takes, according to these experts, is a computer program downloaded from the Internet, an open access point, and users ignoring some of the basic rules of system security.
Computer security expert Sean Remnant told the CNN that, “The difficulty for travelers is differentiating between a good Internet access hotspot and a rogue, or somebody trying to actually glean credentials from you. The issue is that you don’t necessarily know the difference between a good and a bad one.”
And it seems that this is not only happening in airports, either. Cafes, hotels and even entire cities are experiencing a rapid spread of Wi-Fi networks, which hackers are all too eager to take advantage of. Last month, Venice introduced what is believed to be Europe’s most extensive Wi-Fi network. According to mobile media company, Jiwire, there are more than 273,000 free and pay for Wi-Fi locations in 140 countries. Most of these can be found in the United States, China, the United Kingdom and France.
However, Kelly Davis-Felner, a marketing director for the Wi-Fi Alliance – an industry group that tests and certifies Wi-Fi equipment – says the increased availability of wireless networks has not led to a rise in hacking cases. “We certainly haven’t seen any kind of sudden epidemic of hackers in open hotspots or anything like that.”
She went on to say that all Wi-Fi enabled devices have in-built security measures to protect against this kind of intrusion, and all a user need do is to activate them. “If you’re updating Facebook, or checking your personal e-mail or surfing the Web, there’s really no reason at all to worry about using an open network,” Davis-Felner said. “Any kind of online shopping or banking or anything that would require you to exchange sensitive data over the airwaves, then we advise people to exercise caution.”
Kiran Deshpande, president of AirTight Networks, had this advice for travelers: “Connect only to the networks that you trust. Make sure that your communication is secure, disconnect the wireless when you stop using it, and maintain the list of wireless connections that you use on your laptop so that you don’t accidentally connect to networks that may spring up when you’re traveling.”