Scammers Target Free Wi-Fi Locales

LAS VEGAS - Kris Jardon uses a wireless or Wi-Fi connection at UNLV's student union.

"Video games, message boards, e-mail, going to websites," he said.

The history student is connected and can surf on his computer as much as he wants, but he knows he can't be too trusting on public Wi-Fi.

"I wouldn't go on my bank account on public ones," he said.

A few feet away, Jenner Holden – an information security manager with the identity theft protection company LifeLock – uncovered a lot of activity at this Wi-Fi hot spot.

"The first thing an attacker is going to do is what's called "sniffing", just see what's in the air," he said. "Eighty different devices, computers, laptops, iPads, phones - those kinds of things - looking for almost 900 wireless networks."

Holden conducted a special experiment for 8 News NOW. He demonstrated how easy it is to con computer users by digitally deceiving them into hooking up to his laptop. They click on a W-Fi network that looks real, but is a fake network set up by Holden.

"It's an evil twin," he said. "It's pretending to be something that it's not, and you connect to them instead of the legitimate access point. They pass your traffic through."

Holden demonstrated how a crook can grab data right off your computer.

"Passwords, sensitive information like Social Security numbers, birth dates - if you're doing banking or taxes or anything like that," he said.

Holden says most public Wi-Fi networks are at risk. "A university, a library, an airport, coffee shop," he said.

Jardon agreed to take part in the demonstration. He signed on to Holden's phony network. The private information he typed appeared on Holden's screen.

"It accurately recorded it, and they definitely would have your information after that, and it's a bit shocking," Jardon said. "I could see a lot of people falling for it."

The next time you pull out your laptop, iPhone, or iPad for free, public Wi-Fi, know it can be risky.

"Am I just reading the news? Maybe I'm okay with that. Am I going to do my banking? Maybe I don't want to do that. Maybe I'll wait until I get home to do that," Holden said.

Crooks will often park outside businesses, complexes, and schools when they set up the phony Wi-Fi connections. They will then steal your private information as you type it in real time.

No one's private information or passwords were compromised as a result of the 8 News NOW demonstration.


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