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How fraudsters can target you on public networks

When connecting to the internet in a public place using your mobile phone, laptop or tablet there can be a number of risks if you do not take precautions.

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To help people avoid fraud when using public Wi-Fi hotspots, security firm ThreatMetrix has identified scenarios of how cybercriminals can access sensitive information on public networks.

Scenarios to be aware of:

  • Man-in-the-middle attacks – Fraudsters can set up a fake internet access point and trick you or your device into connecting to it. By standing between you and the internet in this way, they can send you to malicious websites and intercept encrypted communications
  • Social hacking – hackers can leave malicious USB drives lying around, for example on a café table – waiting for someone curious to insert it into their device. The attacker can then capture sensitive information, such as social network logins.
  • Hi-resolution video cameras on mobile devices – Cybercriminals can subtly use a hi-resolution video camera on a mobile device to capture your personal information, such as credit card information or passwords to accounts.

Safe public Wi-Fi advice from Get Safe Online

  • Try to use commercial hotspot providers such as BT OpenZone or T-Mobile.
  • Unless you are using a secure web page, do not send or receive private information when using public Wi-Fi.
  • Have updated antivirus/antispyware software and firewall running.
  • As an alternative, you could use your own portable internet device, which will provide you with a secure connection.
  • Never leave your computer, smartphone or tablet unattended.
  • Be aware of who is around you and may be watching what you are doing online.
For further information visit ThreatMetrix’s website. Please note that Action Fraud is not responsible for the content of external websites. To report a fraud and receive a police crime reference number, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.

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