In Your Corner: Fake WiFi Hotspots

By Ryan Elijah

In Your Corner: Fake WiFi Hotspots

October 28, 2011 Updated Oct 28, 2011 at 9:29 AM EDT

From airports to hotels and coffee shops, wireless networks surround us almost everywhere we go, but some users would be surprised to know how many "fake" hotspots are lurking.

Scammers create fake WiFi hotspots and security experts say it's amazing how many users connect, often exposing their banking information and making stock trades.

We wanted to see how easy it was to create a fake hot spot. What many scammers do is simply make a name that is very close to the network. We brought along Dave Bender of Alpha Computer Services, armed with his laptop and our internet specialist Scott Sarvay.

Our first stop was Starbucks, which we found to be very secure and hard wired. From there we went to the Firefly Coffee House and created a hot spot that was only one letter away from the real one, we did the same thing outside the Holiday Inn, where they had 6 different WiFi channels available. While no one logged onto the fake hot spot, the experiment clearly showed how easily scammers can create one of their own.

"it's amazing how easily someone can be faked out and the name can be almost identical to the place you thought you were and your traffic being recorded when you think you're just on in the internet", said Dave Bender.

A few years ago, Dave Bender took us wardriving, where people look for unsecured wifi networks. He feels people are now much more aware of the security dangers than a few years ago. A wireless security firm recently did a similar experiment on major airports and found less than five percent of users were actually using a secure network.

With wifi access more in demand with smart phones and tablet growth exploding, users need to avoid using those networks for sending banking and personal information

It's a good idea to always assume Wi-Fi connections are being eavesdropped on, using the official access keys provided by an establishment will help you avoid fake Wi-Fi spots. If you're traveling, this information is even more critical, as the cyber criminals focus on busy tourist areas, keying on places like airports and hotels, where busy travelers might let their guard down.

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