UK national newspaper The Guardian has released the results of an investigation into public Wi-Fi and the risks involved with connecting to “hot spots” or apparently free internet connections.
Its predominant conclusion was that millions of smartphone users are at risk of identity theft and fraud from the use (conscious or otherwise) of free Wi-Fi hotspots.
The issue arises from “evil twin” networks which are maliciously set up to look like a free Wi-Fi service. Instead they are set up by fraudsters who capture all the data sent through their network.
The Guardian claims that such a network is easy to set up for only a little money and know-how. The fraudster then goes to a public place and gives their signal a trusted or recognized name and wait for people to connect. Once connected to their fraudulent network, the scammer can then harvest the data you transmit across the network, be that banking logins, email addresses or other personal information.
Scammers have not stopped at just offering “Free Wi-Fi” and have been known to set up pay-to-use internet as well, ensuring that they get credit card information from anyone wishing to connect.
In The Guardian’s investigation it set up a fake pay-as-you-surf gateway which required payment details. Among the T’s & C’s was the line "you agree we can do anything we like with your credit card details and personal logins" which did not stop a number of people from signing up to the service.
One of the most concerning issues is that many smartphones, including the latest iPhone 4 are set up by default to automatically connect to any available wireless signal. This could mean that your data is at risk in your pocket as you sit having a coffee. The scam isn’t limited to iPhone users and can just as easily affect Android devices.
AVG has put together a list of seven mobile activities which should be avoided.
• Conducting online banking activities via unofficial apps
• Downloading apps from un-trusted sources
• Using 3rd party open source libraries, apps and components that may harbor bugs and malicious code
• Allowing strangers to borrow your phone
• Letting others, including family members (kids in particular) play with their smartphones as they can download apps with malicious content
• Clicking on suspicious content coming through text messages, which might ask for your personal information, passwords or asking you to take urgent actions.
• Installing apps that don’t have good feedbacks and rating
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