The Fake Free Wi-Fi Scam and How to Defend Against It

Fake Free Wi-Fi Scam defend
(Last Updated On: February 10, 2019)

One of the worst online scams that can happen to you is one which can be completely undetectable… Until it is too late. This scam happens over free Wi-Fi connections at your local coffee shop, shopping mall, airport, or anywhere else free public Wi-Fi is available.
Hackers love to find a large and vulnerable audience. The type of audience that is not going to think twice about doing exactly what the hacker wants. How often have you thought about the free Wi-Fi that you’re connecting to, and I mean think about it beyond “Oh, wow, free Wi-Fi!” I’m going to look at the things that you should actually think about so that you don’t get scammed.

Fake Free Wi-Fi Scam defend

Wi-Fi scams steal your information

The Wi-Fi scam that I am going to look at goes buy a couple of names. You can call it a man in the middle attack, or you can call it a fake WAP a fake WAP. The very first thing to consider, on the hackers side, is an appropriate target location. As I mentioned, they will look for anywhere popular with a lot of people.
The scam here is that you, and anyone else, will connect to it thinking that it’s a legitimate Wi-Fi connection. Instead, it is 100% a scam to steal your data. This data can lead to loss of money if they get hold of certain passwords.
The steps in this scam are:

  • The hacker will use a popular program which can turn their device into a Wi-Fi hotspot. This is not an exotic program, most major smartphones come with this function.
    With the free Wi-Fi established, the hacker will now need to use a tool to intercept your data. Aircrack – NG Suite is popular.
  • Sometimes the hacker will use another tool to shut down all available Wi-Fi in the immediate area. Another tactic will be to make their Wi-Fi signal the strongest in the area. Or they could just leave the signal up and wait for people to connect to it.
  • Once people connect to their free Wi-Fi network they’ll do packet sniffing which will allow them to freely access anything that you send over their Wi-Fi connection. This will include any unencrypted information, which could include sign in details.
  • That is it if you connect you will be scammed. Think about all the things that you do on public Wi-Fi without thinking about it. Talk to your friends about private information. Banking. Sharing pictures. Discussing your plans for the day. And anything else that is your business and no one else’s.

Defending against the fake free Wi-Fi scam

The first way to defend against the scam is to be vigilant. If you are going to connect to a free Wi-Fi connection anywhere in public you should check with the proprietor to make sure that it’s legitimate, and that you have the right name.
The second thing that you can do, regardless of the outcome of the above suggestion, is to use a VPN. This is an encryption tool which will protect every single connection you make with the power of encryption. It works like this:

  • You find a Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • You connect to it, unaware of its encryption settings, or if it is a scam.
  • Before you do anything you connect to your VPN.
  • The VPN provider encrypts all of your communications.
  • Everything that you do over this Wi-Fi hotspot is protected.
  • Hackers cannot scam you.
    This tool is used to buy a wide range of people and has been used by businesses for decades. Now anyone can use one to protect their connection wherever they go in the world.

Also Read: Millions of Instagram accounts were hacked

Additional Wi-Fi scam blocking tactics

Other ways to protect yourself even more include:

  • Using unique passwords for all of your accounts. Password management tools can help you create unique passwords for every account. This way even if a hacker manages to scam you in some way they will have access to one account instead of all of them.
  • If you come across a Wi-Fi connection which blocks access to VPNs, absolutely avoid them at all cost. This is a sure sign of a scammer who doesn’t want you to be able to protect yourself.
  • Turn off the auto-connect on your computer, and set it so that you have to manually select which Wi-Fi network to connect to. Hackers will often set up their Wi-Fi so that it is the most powerful, and the one that your computer is most likely to connect to.
  • Always be skeptical, especially if the place that you normally go to which has paid Wi-Fi switches to a free one. If it’s too good to be true, it’s usually a scam.

Being sure to practice all of these tactics will help protect you on Wi-Fi everywhere you go. They will protect you against a vast number of hackers trying to scam you, leaving you vulnerable to only the most 1337 hackers in the world. The kind that don’t have time for you.

Why do hackers run this scam?

There are three reasons why a hacker would setup this Wi-Fi scam:

  • Login detail theft: Too many people use the same password and email combination to log into their accounts. A common aspect of this scam is the hacker will ask you to create an account with their free Wi-Fi hotspot. They will then take that information and use it as part of a brute force tool, also known as a password cracking tool, to attempt to hack into your accounts. This could include your iTunes, Amazon, eBay, or your banking accounts.
  • Bot networks: Hackers will exploit your device for their bot network. They can even go a step further and take complete control of your device so that you can no longer use it.
  • Packet sniffing: This has been covered above, but hackers can use a tool like Ettercap to steal your data over their Wi-Fi access point. This tool is primarily used by white hat hackers to find vulnerabilities. Black hat hackers use them in the methods described in this article to steal any sort of data they can.

These are some of the most damaging scams that you can face online. Being sure to follow my advice on how to prevent them is essential not only to protect yourself from online scams, but offline as well as the scam can impact your entire life.

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About Marcus Habert 1 Article
Marcus writes about online security and privacy issues on the Best VPN blog. You can find a new article there every single Wednesday that will keep you abreast of what's going on in the digital world. If you want to be updated more frequently.

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