4 On Your Side looks at the dangers of free public Wi-Fi

Posted at: 07/16/2013 9:54 PM
Updated at: 07/17/2013 9:44 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The world wouldn't be where it is without Wi-Fi. Wireless internet allows us to tap into any place in the world with a few keystrokes.

Nobody knows that better than chief hacker Tyler Tobin. Companies pay Tyler to hack their computers to find vulnerabilities. 4 On Your Side brought him to New Mexico to find out what happens when you use free public Wi-Fi.

Think of Wi-Fi like this: If you have a secured password connection, it's like being on a small private road and you are the only one on it.  But free public Wi-Fi is like a wide open interstate: Anyone can jump on.  The more users, the more threats.

Protecting Your Identity While Online

Be aware of the following:
• Never give out your information to a person or a company that contacted you first.
• You never can be too cautious when protecting your personal information.
• Know who you are dealing with when shopping or divulging personal information online.
• If something sounds too good to be true it most likely is.

Signs that your identity has been stolen:
• Statements for your financial accounts stop arriving at the normal time without prior notice from your financial institution.
• Bills start coming for things you did not buy, or charges show up on your credit card statement for purchases you did not make.

What do you do if your identity is stolen? Immediately file a police report and retain a copy. Then contact your creditors, banks, credit bureau, local law enforcement agency and the Federal Trade Commission by phone and in writing. Let them know that you have become the victim of identity theft. Keep a record of all communication you make with these agencies, including everything you send them, each person you talk to, and the date and time of all communication. Request a copy of your credit report and review it carefully for anything suspicious. Close all accounts that have been tampered with or opened without your knowledge or consent.  

 - Tips from the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office

"Every time you log on to a public Wi-Fi, you can assume that we are watching," Tobin said.

To test that, we created our own Wi-Fi. We called it something people would trust: ABQ Public Wi-Fi.

We took our Wi-Fi to coffee shops, the UNM campus, and the Sunport. And every time, people trusted our connection and joined in. Every computer on our Wi-Fi was vulnerable to hacking.

Because it is a felony, Tobin did not hack into any of these computers, but he was allowed to hack into one of our computers using that same Wi-Fi connection.

Within minutes, Tobin found vacation photos and a W-2 statement. He was able to dig into the computer because both computers were on the same Wi-Fi.

New Mexico routinely ranks high in identity theft crimes, and the Attorney General's office confesses catching the predators is tough. Prosecuting them is even tougher.

"A lot of times they are just difficult to find.  They are out of the country, they are very smart technologically, they are routing it through several different routers and you can't track them down.  It's just very, very hard," Tobin said.

Wireless internet connects us to the world. But hackers have learned, it can also connect them to your most private information.