AARP Fraud Watch Network Cyber Scams
Cyber Scams

Public WiFi is never private

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If you're using public Wi-Fi, you might be oversharing.

On a free public network or even at home, using Wi-Fi means you're potentially sharing your credit card numbers, passwords and other personal information with the world, leaving yourself vulnerable to criminals.

With cybercrime costing Americans $800 million last year, the AARP Fraud Watch Network is urging you to Watch Your Wi-Fi.

Inside cyber scams:

Cyber scams are big business, but how are con artists using our need to stay connected against us?

According to NCC Group technology expert Andrew Becherer, "Hacking Wi-Fi these days is not the work of the master criminals seen in the movies. Tools to break Wi-Fi security are available for free or at very low cost and using them can be as easy as navigating a website."

We talked to NCC Group experts about these scams and con artist techniques to watch out for:

Be Cautious of Cyber Scams

Man in the Middle Attack

How it works: The hacker positions himself between you and your Wi-Fi connection point. So instead of talking directly with the hotspot, you're sending your information to the hacker, who then sends and receives data impersonating you. Every piece of information you're sending out on the Internet: important emails, credit card information and even security credentials to your business network — are all under the control of the hacker.

What happens: The hacker compromises your bank online account credentials and transfers your funds to their account.

Be Cautious of Cyber Scams

Evil Twin Attack

How it works: A hacker sets up a Wi-Fi access point with the same name as a legitimate network you have connected to previously and compels your computer or phone to connect to it automatically without your consent. He monitors commonly used network names, and chooses one — such as "default" or "home" — and banks on your device recognizing it.

What happens: The scammer has the opportunity to steal your user id, name and password — or he can take over your smart phone or laptop.

Be Cautious of Cyber Scams

War Driving

How it works: Armed with a laptop, smartphone or tablet, "war drivers" use commonly available software to troll neighborhoods to find open or poorly protected Wi-Fi networks.

What happens: Once they find an open network, a hacker will use "man in the middle" techniques to steal personal, company and financial data, log in credentials, passwords, etc. They may also install malware on to connected computers and search connected devices for sensitive information.

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Here are the 4 things to never do on public Wi-Fi:

  1. Don’t access your email, online bank, or credit card accounts using public Wi-Fi.
  2. Watch out for fake Wi-Fi at coffee shops, hotels, or other places that offer free Wi-Fi. Con artists set up networks with similar names to trick unsuspecting customers.
  3. Don't let your mobile device automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi.
  4. Don't surf using an unknown public network if the website requires sensitive information — like online shopping.

Are you over-sharing?

According to a survey of Internet users age 18+, tens of thousands of Americans are putting themselves at risk:

  • 61% do not have online access to all of their bank accounts.
  • 45% haven't changed their passwords in the past 90 days.
  • 27% used free public Wi-Fi to do their banking or online shopping.
  • 26% of smartphone users do not have a passcode on that phone.