Computer Crime Research Center


Free Wi-Fi scam

Date: June 16, 2007

In order to keep up in today’s world, a business needs to make sure its employees stay connected, even on the road. Many airports and other public spaces offer free wireless, or Wi-Fi, connections for the public to log onto the Internet from their laptop computers.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns that hackers are now taking advantage of this convenience and setting up fake Wi-Fi connections designed to steal your personal information and files without you even knowing.

How it works

Although hackers can and have set up fake Wi-Fi connections in a number of venues, usually they will target consumers at airports. When searching for connections, consumers may see a network connection available that could be simply named “Free Wi-Fi.” Thinking it’s the free connection offered by the establishment, they’ll log on. Unfortunately, the network may actually be an “ad-hoc” network, or a peer-to-peer connection. The user will be able to surf the Internet, but they’re doing it through the hacker’s computer. And the whole time, the hacker is stealing information like passwords, credit card and bank account numbers, and Social Security numbers. Beyond simply stealing keystroke information as the user enters various types of data, if the PC is set to share files, the hacker could even steal whole documents from the computer.
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