Using free wi-fi when traveling? Follow this advice.

Warning about free public Wi-Fi

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - We've become accustomed to hopping on free wireless networks when we travel.

There's a new warning now about how new tools have made it easier than ever to snoop on you while you surf at the airport or hotel.

This is a critical warning from our Cyber Expert, Theresa Payton.

"This is your wake up call.  if you use free wi-fi you need to be extra careful about when and how you use it," Payton said.

While waiting for his flight, a "good-guy" security tech set up a free WiFi that looked like a legit airport WiFi.  Then using free or cheap tools, once people logged into his fake WiFi, he read their transactions.  In one case, he knew the country the traveler was from, the business trip he was going on, and he saw account ids and passwords flying by for bank accounts, emails, social media and more. This happened in less than an hour.

At his hotel, he was able to figure out the tools the hotel was using to power their WiFI and he guessed at the admin passwords to hop onto their network using a few inexpensive or free tools.

Steps to protect yourself:

  1. Look at using services such as AT&T or Verizon wi-fi that you purchase for yourself
  2. If you do not like commitments to contracts, you can look at the new service called Freedom Pop
  3. You can also look at services such as Private WiFi or  Virtual Private Network that allow you to create a more secure, private connection while over free WiFI
  4. Ask!  Always ask the airport and hotel staff what the legitimate name for the WiFi is

If you are not sure about their security, consider web browsing only and save sensitive transactions for trusted internet connections

Want to see the full study on how the good guy hacker did this?  Read Tripwire's account, here.

Copyright 2014 WBTV. All rights reserved.