The Dangers of Public WiFi: Hackers and Fake WAPs| By |Ernest Thompson

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Everyone always hears about hackers and hacking and thinks that it is something that only happens to big companies. Or they think it only happens to important people. This is not the case, especially when we start looking at public WiFi.

More than anything, hackers love a vulnerable audience. They want an audience that is going to take something without thinking. Who doesn’t want to take free WiFi at every opportunity? Hackers know this, and that’s why they have come up with a common hack known as a fake WAP.

The fake WAP: Stealing your information made easy

A fake WAP hack takes place in public spaces where there is free WiFi. This includes your local coffee shop, the airport, and shopping centers.

Most fake WAP hacks start when a hacker downloads a program.

You don’t need any special hacking skills. You just download a program. In some instances, you don’t even have to download a program as most phones already have this built into them. It is called a ‘hot spot’ in common parlance.

Once a device is setup to broadcast its own WiFi signal is when the true hacking will start. Hackers will then use another tool, one which is usually built into Aircrack-NG Suite, for jamming and deauthentication.

Once the local Wi-Fi signal has been jammed or deauthenticated they can then force you to connect to the wireless access point that they have set up. This is where problems start.

What is the point of a fake WAP?

There are three main things that hackers are trying to do with a fake WAP:

  • Steal your password and login: Since so many people use the same password and login for all of their accounts, hackers will require you to enter one to connect to their fake WiFi. They will then take that information and try to use it to sign into other websites. Think about your Amazon account, eBay, banking, etc. This will be done using basic brute force tools.
  • Man in the middle attack: Hackers will use something like Ettercap for a man-in-the-middle attack. This hack will sniff any data that you send over their wireless access point, giving them free access to your data. Again, they’re looking for login details and passwords. If you do any banking over this public WiFi you can say goodbye to your money.
  • Device control: Hackers can take control of your device using a tool like the Metasploit Project. You won’t have to worry about your passwords or logins anymore, you will no longer have control of your computer.

As you can tell, each of these is pretty bad. Do you have to sit there and take it from these hackers, or is there something that you can do on offense to combat them? Of course there is!

Defend against the fake WAP

As you have read, these hacks are pretty easy to do. Given that they’re not very sophisticated, or being used against high-value targets, defending against them is also easy. As is the case in most hacking instances, you just have to make yourself more difficult to access than the next person.

Here are the steps you need to take to protect yourself from a fake WAP in a public setting:

  1. Get the correct WiFi: When you are in a public setting you will no doubt find a number of open WiFi networks. Be sure to find the person responsible for administering it before you connect. Talk to a security guard in the mall. Talk to the librarian. Make sure that you are connecting to an official WiFi account using the correct name.
  2. Unique passwords: The most basic fake WAP hack can be easily thwarted by simply creating new passwords for each account. If you can’t do that, do yourself a favor and do not connect to the wireless access point if it asks for signin details. 1Password can help you with this as well.
  3. Using encryption: Encryption does not have to be scary. It is just another tool that is used in today’s modern world. The easiest way to get encryption on public WiFi is by using a VPN service. These tools will automatically encrypt all of the data that you send over any WiFi network. This isn’t just beneficial to protect yourself against a fake WAP, but a number of other possible hacks and online tracking activities.
  4. VPN blockage: You will know for certain that you do not want to be on a WiFi network when it blocks you from using a VPN. Even if it is a legitimate WiFi access point, the owner still doesn’t want you to protect yourself. Would you get into a car on the condition that you not put on a seatbelt? I hope not…
  5. Spoofing: Another common problem is that once you connect to a WiFi network it sends you to spoof websites. Again, this can be where they ask for login details.
  6. Becoming free: This is when you go to a place where you know the WiFi is regularly paid, or guarded. A hacker can see this and try to play into your gullibility by suddenly changing it to being free available… Using their own WAP with the same name.
  7. Auto connect: You have to turn off the auto connect on your computer. It will want to connect to the most powerful signal in your area. A hacker can make their WAP the most powerful quite easily with a single command line.

I do not recommend that you pick and choose from the tactics above. You need to use all of them, all of the time, in order to protect yourself online from fake WAPs, and a variety of other online hacking issues.

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