Thursday, April 26, 2007

'Evil twin' Wi-Fi access points proliferate

The moral of this story:  Watch where and to whom you're connecting.
If you have any information on your laptop that you don't want to share you may want to avoid free Wi-Fi altogether.   This include cafes, hotels and public parks.  Your best bet when traveling is to use your own internet aircard or connect to the internet via a wired connection.   And of course, make sure that you are using good firewall, anti-virus and anti-spam software.  If you have any shared folders or drives on your laptop make sure that they are password protected.
Beware of spoofed Wi-Fi access points in public places, scamming users and harvesting passwords.

by Jeremy Kirk
PC World
Wednesday, April 25, 2007; 12:32 PM
The next time you splurge on a double latte and sip it while browsing the Internet via the cafe's Wi-Fi, beware of the "evil twin."  That's the term for a Wi-Fi access point that appears to be a legitimate one offered on the premises, but actually has been set up by a hacker to eavesdrop on wireless communications among Internet surfers.

With the growth in wireless networks, the "evil twin" type of attack is on the rise, said Phil Cracknell, president of the U.K. branch of the Information Systems Security Association.

Such attacks are much easier than others seeking logins or passwords, such as phishing, which involves setting up a fraudulent Web site and luring people there, Cracknell said.  A rogue Wi-Fi connection can be set up on a laptop with a bit of simple programming and a special USB (Universal Serial Bus) thumb drive that acts as an access point.

The growth in the number of Wi-Fi networks poses increasing opportunities for hackers, who can make their networks appear to be legitimate by simply giving their access point a similar name to the Wi-Fi network on the premises.  The hacker's computer can be configured to pass the person through to the legitimate access point while monitoring the traffic of the victim.  "You are going to harvest some incredible information in a short span of time with a rogue hot spot," Cracknell said.

Corporate users can protect themselves by using VPN (virtual private network) when logging into company servers, Cracknell said.  But consumers are at a particular disadvantage, since they are likely not using VPN and will access free Web e-mail applications that could send passwords in clear text.

Wi-Fi hot spot owners tend to be "absolutely ignorant" of the attack, although they should regularly monitor their network for rogue access points, Cracknell said.

Another problem is reporting: victims may not even know how their information was pinched, and those who run the hot spot may be reluctant to reveal that hackers exploited their network.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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