That sweet public Wifi is not as safe as you think


We’ve all been connected to public wifi probably multiple times a day. If you’re traveling or studying abroad this especially applies to you. With nearly 2 billion smartphone in the world right now (1), and Wifi popping up everywhere, in cities especially, we are beginning simply take it for granted whenever we can connect. If its free, it must be safe right? Wrong. With the right tools and an average IQ, anyone can hack your phone or tablet for as little as 70 euros. A small black device can redirect internet traffic through a public wifi network, like Starbucks, and rename itself to appear as that harmless free internet connection so many people take for granted.

With this device, one can see what devices are connected, their iOS version (which, if not updated could reveal many bugs within the software) and their name. Even further, one could see what activity they are doing currently, track their internet connection history to deduce where they have been, and even steal bank passwords, email accounts and other very sensitive information.

One example showed a hacker obtain the following information in less than 20 minutes: where she was born, where she studied, that she has an interest in yoga, that she’s bookmarked an online offer for a anti-snore mantras, recently visited Thailand and Laos, and shows a remarkable interest in sites that offer tips on how to save a relationship. This was done harmlessly to show how easy it is to hack people through public wifi (2).

The good news: not all public Wifi is bad. It isn’t to the point where we should be shunning wifi and avoiding it at all costs. However, we should be aware of the realities and be careful when using insecure wifi connections. You never know who is out there waiting to ruin your life through digital means!

References:

(1) http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Smartphone-Users-Worldwide-Will-Total-175-Billion-2014/1010536

(2) https://medium.com/matter/heres-why-public-wifi-is-a-public-health-hazard-dd5b8dcb55e6

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