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Beware of ‘evil twin’ public Wi-Fi networks

Safer Internet Day

WatchGuard is warning children, parents and carers to be aware of evil twins when using public Wi-Fi networks. Children and adults alike are all too happy to log on to public hotspots to check their social media and emails or browse the web and do some online shopping, unaware of the risks, says WatchGuard. Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally each year to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.

In a recent study, a team of WatchGuard researchers visited 40 well known locations including hotels, transport hubs, shops, banks and restaurants and were able to create a rogue wireless access point, or evil twin, in all but four of the sites visited. An evil twin mimics a genuine hotspot so when unsuspecting users connect, they are actually connecting to a hacking device. The evil twin even has the same network name and settings but is a fake from which a hacker can gain access to personal data and images, as well as passwords or credit card information.

The equipment to set up an evil twin is small enough to be stored in a backpack and is available online for as little as £150. The hacker simply walks into a building, looks for the available Wi-Fi networks and creates the evil twin that replicates and looks just like the genuine service. When customers with laptops, tablets, smartphones and watches connect to the evil twin version, the attacker can watch and intercept everything an unsuspecting user is accessing or sending.

“Evil twins are not a new problem but there are more and more public Wi-Fi networks and many of us – children in particular – are not aware of the potential risks,” said Ryan Orsi, Director of Product Management at WatchGuard. “It’s time for the Wi-Fi providers and their customers to do more to prevent these threats. It is simple to scan for rogue access points (APs) and evil twins and block them, but most Wi-Fi providers do not do this.”

As part of its campaign to encourage more secure Wi-Fi, WatchGuard has started a Trusted Wireless Environment campaign to pursue industry cooperation in building secure Wi-Fi standards to protect users against the six most common Wi-Fi threats. You can sign up here: trustedwirelessenvironment.com.