Free wi-fi has become almost a standard feature in coffee shops, fast-food outlets and similar businesses, because a hangout whose customers can't use their smartphones or tablets is a hangout likely to lose customers after awhile.
Of course hackers have figured out ways to use this to their advantage. The latest, which CNN Money reported this week, involves using drones capable of stealing everything on your smartphone — passwords, photographs and more.
More specifically, the technology to strip the data from your smartphone already existed, just not in super-mobile hard-to-avoid drone form.
Fortunately, the hackers who created the drone (named “Snoopy”) are actually security researchers with Senseport Research Labs who intend to present Snoopy to a cybersecurity conference next month. As CNN Money explained:
Snoopy takes advantage of a feature built into all smartphones and tablets: When mobile devices try to connect to the Internet, they look for networks they've accessed in the past.
"Their phone will very noisily be shouting out the name of every network its ever connected to," Sensepost security researcher Glenn Wilkinson said. "They'll be shouting out, 'Starbucks, are you there?...McDonald's Free Wi-Fi, are you there?"
So Snoopy basically poses as Starbucks or McDonald's wifi and shouts back “Here I am,” your phone or tablet makes the connection, and Snoopy (and the hackers controlling him) can read everything you do. CNN opened new accounts with Amazon, PayPal and Yahoo, specifically to see if Snoopy could steal the usernames and passwords; yes, easily.
Fortunately, protecting yourself is almost as easy: shut off the wi-fi connections on your mobile devices when you're not using them, and set it so that it must ask before joining a mobile network