Posted by: jwtarr | November 20, 2008

Beware of Wi-Fi Scams at Airports

Laptop Lounging at the Airport?  Beware of Hackers and Scams.

If you log on to a peer-to-peer or ad hoc network at the airport, you may be putting yourself at risked of being hacked.

Want to catch up on email before that flight to Houston?  Want to finish posting on your blog before heading to Grandma’s in Miami?  Maybe you are just watching some videos online to pass the time.  Whatever the case may be, organizations like the Better Business Bureau are asking you to beware.

Many airports are offering free wireless (Wi-FI) internet services to travelers stuck waiting in the terminal.  But the Better Business Bureau is warning that hackers set up fake Wi-Fi accounts designed to steal your information.

How it works 

Many hackers will set up a Wi-Fi network with the title “Free Wi-Fi.”  When people at the airport log on to their computer and open their internet connections page they will see that title thinking its a quick and money-saving way to jump online.  But in fact, many of these “Free Airport Wi-Fi’s”  are actually “ad hoc” networks.  That simply means you are on a peer-to-peer network; essentially you are web surfing through the hacker’s computer.  The hacker, in the meantime, may be stealing passwords, credit card information, bank account numbers, and even your social security number.

Just how prevalent are these ad-hoc networks?  Well, major airports like Los Angeles International (LAX) and Atlanta (ATL) have reported the problem.  In a study last year, Chicago O’Hare found more than 20 ad-hoc networks designed by hackers to steal information.

Videos like this one show just how easily your computer can be hacked (if you don’t take the necessary precautions and heed the advice below) at an airport or hotel while you are traveling.

What can you do?

Here are some tips from the BBB about what you can do to protect yourself while at the airport:

  • Never log on to a network you don’t recognize or a peer-to-peer network.  many times the networks will have the same name as the Wi-Fi advertised by the airport.  Microsoft has posted tools for travelers to be able to distinguish between the fraud and the real deal.
  • Make sure your computer is not set to autmotically connect to non-preferred wireless networks.
  • Turn off file-sharing

You can find detailed instructions on how to change some of these computer settings on sites like ComputerWorld.com.

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