Data Security, Endpoint/Device Security, Privacy

Who can it be now? Australia warns of rogue Wi-Fi at airports

Man holding smartphone with wi-fi sign. Internet, Technology

Officials in Australia are warning travelers following the discovery of rogue Wi-Fi points in one of the nation’s airports.

The Australian Federal Police issued an alert after busting up a data-harvesting operation at the Perth Airport on the nation’s west coast.

Cops down under say man used hotspots to plunder

An unidentified 42-year-old man faces nine criminal charges related to cybercrime after investigators determined that he was using a mobile hotspot to pose as the airport’s on-site Wi-Fi network and harvest data from fellow travelers.

“To connect to a free WiFi network, you shouldn’t have to enter any personal details — such as logging in through an email or social media account,” said Andrea Coleman, cybercrime detective inspector with the AFP Western Command.

“If you do want to use public Wi-Fi hotspots, install a reputable virtual private network (VPN) on your devices to encrypt and secure your data when using the internet.”

According to the AFP, the man allegedly used the access point along with a laptop and mobile phone to create local Wi-Fi networks that presented themselves as trusted access points.

When nearby people connected to the points, they were given internet access but in the process had their traffic collected and sorted through in order to collect account logins and other sensitive information.

The case was broken open back in April when police seized the defendant’s luggage at Perth Airport and found the data-harvesting equipment. This led to a May raid of his home in Palmyra, a suburb of Perth.

The seized devices included a number of account credentials that were collected from fellow airport travelers, which led to police filing multiple charges related to cybercrime and illegal collection of data.

Dirty deeds… on IP

The warning should prove particularly poignant in the U.S. as the upcoming Independence Day weekend will likely see many Americans traveling domestically and outside of the country.

Coleman recommended that travelers who find themselves on public networks at airports take basic precautions, such as avoiding the use of password-protected accounts where possible and changing passwords should access be necessary.

“When using a public network, disable file sharing, don’t do anything sensitive — such as banking — while connected to it and once you finish using it, change your device settings to ‘forget network,'” the detective recommended.

“We also recommend turning off the Wi-Fi on your phone or other electronic devices before going out in public, to prevent your device from automatically connecting to a hotspot.” 

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