At the U.S. Republican National Convention in Cleveland last year, more than 1,200 people connected to free WiFi networks with names like “I Vote Trump! Free Internet,” “I Vote Hillary! Free Internet,” and “Xfinitywifi.” They transferred gigabytes of data, doing things like checking e-mails and chatting. Some even shopped on Amazon or logged into their bank accounts.

Those networks were fake, set up by network security vendor Avast to make a point about the insecurity of most public WiFi spots. The company said that over 68 percent of those using these fake sites exposed their identities in some way.

The Republican delegates are no different than the rest of us in their trust of public WiFi networks. In a survey conducted by security vendor Symantec, over half of respondents said they had logged into their personal email or social media accounts from a public network. Some 61 percent believed their information was safe on a public WiFi network. Only 42 percent knew how to tell whether a WiFi network was secure. Millennials were the most trusting group, the survey found. Nearly 95 percent of them had shared information while on public Wi-Fi, the largest percentage of any generation.

WiFi hackers like to hit where crowds gather. For example, one published report claimed that hackers took advantage of the crowds attending the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 by launching fake WiFi spots across the city and thereby vacuuming up a lot of data from unsuspecting users. How much and what types of data? No one seems to know, but it likely included passwords, credit card numbers, and other info that thieves later used to commit identity theft or other types of fraud.

WiFi hacks fly under the radar

While theft of data from unsuspecting consumers (Read more...)