‘Evil twin’ Wi-Fi access points proliferate

The next time you splurge on a double latte and sip it while browsing the Internet via the cafe’s Wi-Fi, beware of the “evil twin.”

That’s the term for a Wi-Fi access point that appears to be a legitimate one offered on the premises, but actually has been set up by a hacker to eavesdrop on wireless communications among Internet surfers.

With the growth in wireless networks, the “evil twin” type of attack is on the rise, said Phil Cracknell, president of the U.K. branch of the Information Systems Security Association. Such attacks are much easier than others seeking logins or passwords, such as phishing, which involves setting up a fraudulent Web site and luring people there, Cracknell said.

The hacker’s computer can be configured to pass the person through to the legitimate access point while monitoring the traffic of the victim. Several free programs available on the Internet can decode packets to reveal clear-text logins and passwords.

Consumers can protect themselves at least one way: be wary of free hotspots. Many airports and cafes charge for access, so a free hot spot could be designed to ensnare potential victims. Also, the attack has been used in hotels, with the “evil twin” actually coming from a nearby hacker guest.
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