BEWARE: Hackers targeting WiFi users in public spaces

Posted at 10:03 PM, Jul 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-06 01:38:57-04

This will make you think twice about that free Wi-Fi connection at your favorite coffee shop. 

Hackers are creating fake networks that replicate legitimate wireless internet sources in order to steal all your information.

Wi-Fi networks can be called anything. Fake Wi-Fi networks created by bad guys can look just like that coffee house hotspot you just logged onto.

“This is known as a man in the middle [attack]. This is getting between you and the true internet connection so all the information has to go through this device,” said Ken Colburn with Data Doctors.

The hackers sit in the parking lot with a device intended for IT professionals auditing their own networks. The device is repurposed to steal your online stuff.

“They'll go to a place they know most people have to pay for internet access — airports, hotels, some coffee shops — and set up a free alternative. And a lot of times it'll say "free Wi-Fi” because they know people are saying, ‘great, I don't have to pay,’” said Ken.

But there's certainly a price. Once you’ve logged onto the fake Wi-Fi network, the hacker is capturing everything you’re doing online — social network and email passwords, credit card info from that shirt you just bought online — everything.

“It's really, really easy to do,” said Colburn.

Most people have no clue.

“To be honest, I'm not careful at all,” said Evan Marcus, an internet user at Urban Beans café in central Phoenix.

“I will occasionally look up my email, but not very often when I’m in a public space,” said Tommy Hopf, another internet user who also said he doesn’t look up banking information in public.

Fake Wi-Fi is nearly impossible to spot but there are clues.

Most legit networks will require a password or have a page to accept their terms and conditions,” said Colburn.

“But when you don't see any of that, you just see a Wi-Fi connection, you click on it and you're on; public Wi-Fi of that nature you should be super concerned about that,” said Colburn.