Hackers take advantage of holiday shoppers with malicious Wi-Fi links

File (Dino Quinzani/Flickr Commons)
File (Dino Quinzani/Flickr Commons)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A lot of people connect to public Wi-Fi while browsing and shopping online, but while you’re pouncing on sales, some may be stealing your personal information.

Lauren Haile and her friends go to Uncommon Grounds frequently.

“I probably come here, like, twice a day and check my phone; connect to the Wi-Fi here,” she said. “Sometimes I bring my computer.”

But Haile was shocked to learn hackers could gain access to her information if she clicked the wrong Wi-Fi.

“That would be terrifying because I am definitely not one of those people that pays attention,” she said. “It’s just, like, if I have Wi-Fi on my phone, I consider that good.”

Steve Nhadek is a little more aware.

“I have had some information stolen from me before,” he said.

He still doesn’t know how or when he was hacked.

“Oh, I don’t know,” he said. “I have no idea. I just know that it was because someone was using my card.”

GreyCastle Security expert Mike Stamas said evil twin Wi-Fi is set up to look like legitimate ones.

“Essentially, any information that you transmit through our malicious Wi-Fi, we get to see everything,” he said.

Malicious wifi and phony package alerts are the biggest schemes during the holiday season.

“Our busiest time every year is right around the holiday season because cyber criminals know we’re essentially going on break,” Stamas explained.

So how do you stay safe?

“Really catching that malicious link before you get to the point where you insert poor information is really a key point,” Stamas said.

It’s also important to look for the site lock icon and green link before entering any personal information. Also think about who you share that information with.

“A very smart decision would be not allowing these third parties to hold onto critical information,” Stamas said. “So if you do buy something online, check out as a guest.”

Haile said the idea of having her information stolen is scary, and she’ll be safer online from now on.

“I’ll definitely be more aware, for sure, and take note of the Wi-Fi I’m actually on,” she said.

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