In the era of ubiquitous connectivity, the unsuspecting smartphone user could be the next victim of a new form of cybercrime known as Wifi Jacking. As the name suggests, this crime involves the hijacking of your phone’s wifi connection by cybercriminals, leaving your most confidential information vulnerable to theft.
What is Wifi Jacking?
Not unlike a scene from a sci-fi movie, wifi jacking is a modern-day cybercrime that targets the millions of daily users of public wifi networks. These cyber pirates use sophisticated devices, often described as something from Star Wars, to infiltrate your phone and steal your most sensitive data.
How Does Wifi Jacking Happen?
Victims of wifi jacking, like Kristen Maurer, founder of a K-9 rescue charity, fell prey to this attack without any fault of their own. Maurer’s unpleasant experience started with an innocent, everyday act — using a public wifi network. Unbeknown to her, criminals were lurking nearby, preying on unsuspecting users connected to the same network.
This crime is also known as a ‘man-in-the-middle-attack’, where criminals set up near a public wifi location and impersonate the wifi signal. Once they successfully mimic the wifi, they start to infiltrate your device.
“They impersonate the wifi and set up the attack,” says Michael Alvarez, a specialist in forensic network intrusion with the United States Secret Service.
The Methodology of Wifi Jacking
The methodology of wifi jacking is both fascinating and terrifying. Forensic cyber detective Colman Ryan describes the process in detail:
“Cybercriminals use a high-powered, directional antenna to force your smartphone onto their network. Once that’s done, they can access anything they want from your phone — passwords, emails, credit card information, banking information.”
Moreover, these cybercriminals can continue to access your phone even after you have left the wifi location. This is because your phone remembers the wifi network, allowing the criminals to reconnect at their leisure.
The Impact of Wifi Jacking
The impact of wifi jacking is far from minor. In Maurer’s case, the thieves made fraudulent charges on her credit card and infiltrated her email. The potential damage extends beyond monetary loss, with the possibility of personal information and sensitive data falling into the wrong hands.
How to Protect Yourself from Wifi Jacking
The good news is that there are several steps you can take to safeguard your phone against wifi jacking.
Step One: Disable Wifi When Not In Use
The most straightforward precaution is to turn off your phone’s wifi before leaving your home. This reduces the chances of your phone automatically connecting to a public wifi network.
Step Two: Forget Public Wifi Networks
If you have to use public wifi, make sure to tell your phone to forget the network once you’re done. This prevents your phone from automatically reconnecting to the network in the future.
Step Three: Use a VPN
Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to add an extra layer of security. Michael Alvarez recommends using a VPN to encrypt your data, rendering it unreadable to potential hackers.
Step Four: Keep Your Software Updated
Always accept software updates on your devices. These updates often include security enhancements that protect against new threats.
Step Five: Look For The Lock Symbol
Ensure that the browser you’re using displays a lock symbol, indicating that it is secure. Browsing on an unsecured website increases your risk of being hacked.
By following these steps, you can significantly reduce your risk of falling victim to wifi jacking. Remember, in this digital age, it’s better to be safe than sorry.