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Beware of Free WiFi

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My name is Mark Fenton and I specialize in investigating online crimes. I am a Senior Investigator at Haywood Hunt & Associates Inc. I oversee and manage the OSINT Intelligence Division focusing on anything related to the Internet; background checks, locating individuals, corporate due diligence and personal online safety.

Canada has some of the highest mobile data costs in the world – yes, the world!  So when we get the chance to use “free” WiFi away from home we are happy to connect.  Who doesn’t want to stream that tv show, movie or music list over free WiFi? Why use up your own data plan when you can use up your coffee shops? What could possibly go wrong? Well, many things.

Free WiFi seems to be everywhere these days; restaurants, coffee shops, airports, hotels, the library…in fact, it’s hard not to find a WiFi connection.  The “bad guys” know this and set up their mobile offices accordingly.  What is a criminals mobile office?  Well, their laptop. 

A mobile device is always searching for a connection; whether it is your service provider, WiFi access point or another device, your phone is always reaching out trying to connect to something.

Criminals take advantage of your devices persistent connection requests by positioning themselves as near to a business’s hot spot, or wireless router, as possible.  The criminals will then attempt to mimic the business router hoping that you, and your device, will connect thinking you are connecting to the actual router.  Once connected they can monitor your web traffic, read your email, capture credit card information and passwords and, if you allow your device to file share, you now open yourself up to malware being sent to your device.

Does this mean you should never access free WiFi ever again?  Of course not, you just need to take a few precautions:

  • A VPN will encrypt your network traffic making it much harder to read.
  • Always connect to https websites instead of http. The “s” stands for secure.
  • Never check your bank account while waiting for your double macchiato.
  • Stop using the same password for different sites.
  • Turn off your devices file sharing.
  • Install security software on your device.

Will this stop you from getting “hacked?” No, but it will go a long way to making sure your surfing habits remain secure and private.

If you’ve been the victim of fraud or suspect that someone may be trying to scam you, we can help. Contact us today!

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