Personal information can easily be stolen on public Wi-Fi

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – More and more businesses are offering up free Wi-Fi, but the 8News sister station WWLP found, as life becomes more convenient, the chances of your information getting in the wrong hands go way up.

Between your phone, tablet or laptop, just about everyone is connected, everywhere, which tech experts like Yes Computers technician Tony Russell-Smith say is not necessarily a good thing.

“You can literally snatch the information right out of the air,” he said.

Before you connect to just any available wireless network, you should know how easy it is for your information to get into the wrong hands.

We plugged in a portable router that anyone can buy and boom! We had our own unsecured network that anyone can start using. We instantly picked it up on our cell phone.

Hackers then take it a step further and configure their computer, along with a modem, to take information from the people using that network. We could easily start snatching their information out of the air, precisely, and the equipment looks just like a normal laptop, we wouldn’t even look suspicious.

And unsuspecting victims are usually too busy to notice anyway. We found someone sitting just a few feet away from us, who was using an unrestricted wireless network to check her personal e-mail, until we told her what we were doing and how easy her information would be to steal.

“Yeah, I think I’m logging out right now, seriously,” said Kari Thompson.

It’s not just the people who are connecting to the Wi-Fi who need to be extra careful, it’s also those businesses or homeowners who are putting out the signal who also need to be safe. That’s because you could be on the hook for any illegal activity conducted on your wireless network.

Unless of course you lock it up as you would your home. “If you have a password on your network, it becomes more difficult,” Russell-Smith said.

The takeaway? Consider free Wi-Fi, public domain. Anything you do on it, can be obtained by anyone trolling for it.

It’s important to remember people can name their wireless networks whatever they want, so just because it says a business name you know and trust, doesn’t mean it is.

Experts suggest you turn off your “sharing” feature when you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi, also keep Wi-Fi off when you aren’t using it. Also, hold off on typing in protecting information until you’re on a secured site.

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