FREE Wi-Fi Hooray !!!
What’s one of the first things you do when you get to an airport, or roll into a new city for a conference or meeting? For many of us, the answer is: Find a free Wi-Fi hotspot. It is reasonable to expect to find some kind of free Wi-Fi service at airports, hotels, conference venues, some restaurants, and, of course, at ubiquitous Starbucks locations.
Bogus Hotspot Trap Set by AVAST
However, what if someone decided to place functional, though still rogue, unsecured hotspots in one of these locations? Would you be vigilant enough to notice reasonable-looking but bogus hotspot SSID names? This is exactly what security software company Avast did in Barcelona, Spain during Mobile World Congress (MWC) if February 2016.
Avast set up functional rogue hotspots at MWC’s registration booth at Barcelona Airport with the SSID names “Starbucks,” “Airport_Free_Wifi_AENA,” and “MWC Free WiFi.” All these names look like reasonable names for legitimate hotspot networks. However, hotspots in Starbucks locations are named “Google Starbucks,” and AENA is the old name for the government-owned organization that runs most of the airports in Spain. Its current name is ENAIRE.
What were the results of the test?
In a four-hour test period, Avast recorded more than 2,000 unique users. It scanned the data from these devices for categorization, but didn’t store any data.
- 50.1 percent had an Apple device, 43.4 percent had an Android device, 6.5 percent had an Windows Phone device
- 61.7 percent searched information on Google or checked their emails on Gmail
- 14.9 percent visited Yahoo
- 2 percent visited Spotify
- 52.3 percent have the Facebook app installed, 2.4 percent have the Twitter app installed
- 1 percent used dating apps (Tinder or Badoo)
- From 63.5 percent Avast could see the identity of the device and user
“Many individuals recognise that surfing over open Wi-Fi isn’t secure. However, some of these same people aren’t aware that their device might automatically connect to a Wi-Fi network unless they adjust their settings,” said Gagan Singh, president of mobile at Avast. “With most Mobile World Congress visitors traveling from abroad, it’s not surprising to see that many opt to connect to free Wi-Fi in order to save money, instead of using data roaming services. When taking this route, people should utilize a VPN service that anonymises their data while connecting to public hotspots to ensure that their connection is secure.”
What to do when using Public Networks
- Use a VPN service (Virtual Private Network)
- Prevent your device from connecting automatically to an unknown network.
- Check with someone at the location what the valid wireless network is called.