Thieves could target Wi-Fi hotspots

Friday, May 18, 2012 - 6:04pm

It was a simple demonstration showing the simplicity for thieves to devastate your personal finances. Josh Henderson with Computer Heaven in Baton Rouge, set up a Wi-Fi connection to demonstrate how someone can hack into your personal info by picking up your wireless signal.

"Any device connected to the network, it comes up and shows," Henderson said. "Shows names of device, IP address, Windows or something else."

The program Josh uses is intended for IT departments to remotely troubleshoot computer issues for employees or customers, but used maliciously, a thief can capture personal information from all users in a wireless hotspot and work on cracking their security passwords with a separate, decryption-enabled software.

"That's what hackers would do," Henderson said. "Go sit at a coffee shop, get 15 accounts, go home, run decryption program and in hours he'd have user names and passwords."

The decryption program is illegal, but that won't stop a determined hacker from getting his hands on one.

We decided to bring the troubleshooting program to the LSU campus, demonstrating how vulnerable those not aware can be.

We found a trio of students, one of whom said she leaves her Blackberry's Wi-Fi on at all times, not thinking it could be of any harm.

After Josh showed how open her info is and how easy a hacker can grab her info from any wireless hot spot, she quickly had a change of heart.

"I don't typically use my Internet, so I'll keep it off until I need it," said Alex Alley.

Her two friends were more aware of the risk dealing with wireless security.

"I actually turn of wifi every time I close my laptop just to be sure," said Adam Barnes.

Still -- having never seen it done -- they were not aware of just how easy it actually is to have your info swiped, from out of thin air.

Henderson said the best way to guard yourself against being a victim is to turn off the Wi-Fi option on your smartphone. If you use a hotspot, make sure that all private information is guarded by a password that is difficult to crack.

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