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Free Wi-Fi hotspots could pose data risk, according to Europol

Europol has warned that sensitive information should not be sent using free public Wi-Fi hotspots as they are prone to hackers.

According to Troels Oerting, Head of Europol’s cybercrime centre, you shouldn’t send anything you would want shared or stolen using public Wi-Fi.

The warning comes after a huge increase in hacker attacks on public Wi-Fi hotspots, which Europol is now attending to across Europe.

“We have seen an increase in the misuse of Wi-Fi, in order to steal information, identity or passwords and money from the users who use public or insecure Wi-Fi connections,” said Oerting. “We should teach users that they should not address sensitive information while being on an open insecure Wi-Fi internet.”

“They should do this from home where they know actually the Wi-Fi and its security, but not if you are in a coffee shop somewhere you shouldn’t access your bank or do all of these things that actually transfer very sensitive information.”

Hackers are often managing to trick users into connecting to Wi-Fi networks that are controlled by them, but aesthetically resemble the standard hotspots offered in public places like pubs, cafes or other public spaces.

“Everything that you send through the Wi-Fi is potentially at risk, and this is something that we need to be very concerned about both as individual users but also as police.”

Former head of the UK cybercrime unit, Charlie McMurdie – now a senior security analyst at PWC – said:

“A lot of mainstream criminals have identified there are easy opportunities and vulnerabilities just walking down the street and exploiting Wi-Fi networks that exist in every coffee shop.”

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