A report has emerged suggesting that all most half of all Wi-Fi networks can be hacked in as little time as five seconds.
An insurance and protection company, CPP, commissioned a study into Wi-Fi security, and discovered that a total of 40,000 networks in the country could be easily hacked, while a quarter of all networks did not have even a basic password protecting them.
The experiment was conducted by ‘ethical hacker’ and senior vice president of CRYPTOCar Jason Hart, who travelled between major cities using ‘WarDriving’ kit. This essentially means a laptop, some software, a badly set-up Wi-Fi hotspot and some patience.
In the experiment the Hart was able to harvest 350 names in one hour, sitting in a town centre near coffee shops and restaurants. One of the most worrying aspects was that 200 people logged onto a fake Wi-Fi network over the course of an hour.
The biggest danger is the harvesting of data for identity theft and access to financial information.
CPP’s identity theft expect Michael Lynch said, "This report is a real eye-opener in highlighting how many of us have a cavalier attitude to wi-fi use, despite the very real dangers posed by unauthorised use. We urge all wi-fi users to remember that any information they volunteer through public networks can easily be visible to hackers. It's vital they remain vigilant, ensure their networks are secure and regularly monitor their credit reports and bank statements for unsolicited activity."
Hart, who carried out the experiment said, "With the growth in the number of smartphones and wireless networks, it has become far easier for hackers to crack usernames and passwords, allowing them access to emails, social networks, and online banking sites and even to assume the online identity of their victim. It's vital that both businesses and individuals think very carefully about network security and what information they provide when going online."
Top tips to protect your network include, using WPA2 encryption rather than WEP, and not broadcasting your SSID if you can help it. If you have to, at least change it from the default and naturally, change the password too.