Hacking is a term with a wide variety of acts associated with it. Some are incredibly complex and demand a high degree of knowledge, others are little more than installing some software on your device and acting a bit...less than ethically.
One of the most common hacks is also one of the easiest to defend against. This is what is known as a fake wireless access point. Hackers use this tactic to easily steal data of unsuspecting wireless users in public places.
What is a fake wireless access point data theft?
This type of attack has a number of nicknames associated with it: AP Phishing, Wi-Fi Phishing, Hotspotter, Evil Twins, and Honeypot AP. All of these are associated with creating a fake Wi-Fi connection that people log into, and whose goal is to steal credentials, logins, and passwords.
To accomplish this, hackers simply use a piece of software, or app, that is designed to capture data that is sent over a wireless connection. Examples of software that is sued during a fake Wi-Fi attack includes:
No matter which apps are used, the key to it all is setting up a wireless connection that people will want to connect to. When they go to connect to the wireless point they likely won’t suspect a thing. Why? Because this tactic is used most often in public areas.
If you were to go into your local Starbucks, sit down with your mochalatte venti with cream and sugar pumpkin spice, and open up your tablet, finding a connection labelled ‘Starbucks Free WiFi,’ you’d probably connect in a heartbeat (on which is quicken by caffeine, at that). The same goes if you’re on a layover at JFK and you see a connection labelled ‘JFK Free Wi-Fi.- You wouldn’t think twice. That’s what the hackers are counting on - you not thinking.
How is your data stolen during a fake wireless access point theft?
How your most important data is stolen is a little shocking - you give it to them. A large percentage of these hacks take place with a fake wireless point that requires a login and password. Once that information is put into the login, hackers will take it and use it to sign into popular websites, assuming that you use the same login and password for multiple sites.
When your online accounts start showing charges that you didn’t initiate, or if your social media account is taken over, you could be the victim of a fake wireless access point data theft.
How to defend against an ‘Evil Twin’ attack?
There are a number of ways to defend against it, I’ll look at some easy to understand examples:
- The best defence is to always verify with the wifi provider. Ask the Starbucks staff what their wi-fi is called, it can save you a massive headache. Always remember - if a deal seems too good to be true, like free wifi, it probably is.
- Use different login details and passwords for public wifi.
- Disconnect auto-connect when you’re in unfamiliar territory.
- Be cautious when connects suddenly disconnect, especially if it happens for everyone on the network. An app known as aireplay is capable of disconnecting users from wifi, hoping that they’ll reconnect to their fake wifi.
- Be cautious of certificates. Good websites can occasionally send you one, but if this happens over a public wifi that you don’t know, it is best to back off.
- If a wifi hotspot is interfering with your VPN, forcing you to shut it down, that is a HUGE red flag. A VPN is a great defence against this attack, and hackers know it. Forcing your VPN to disable when you’re trying to connect is the only way that they can steal your data.
A last option that I’ll suggest is using SSL-protected apps. These do take more care and thought to use, but they will offer you protection that is similar to a VPN. Some hackers have even found a wayaround SSL protection ( the BREACH method), so you may want to explore using this with a secondary defensive measure.
The overall advice is to be cautious and verify before you connect. People look at me weird all the time when I ask for the correct wifi name that I should use to connect to. I’ve never been the victim of an ‘Evil Twin’ attack..