Watch Out for Wifi Hacking on the Fly

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Guess what?  Wifi hacking has taken flight!  No, that doesn’t mean hackers in helicopters landing on your roof.  Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have come up with a better idea – a robo wifi hacking drone called SkyNET.  Named after the artificial intelligence system in the Terminator that used robots to launch a war to wipe out the human race, the new SkyNET seems a lot less scary.

 

How Wifi Hacking from the Sky Could Terminate Your Internet Security

The cute little device looks like an airborne metallic crab.  But don’t let that fool you.  In reality, SkyNET is more like a vampire. It’s made from a computer configured to hunt for wireless networks that’s  mounted to a remote controlled toy Parrot AR helicopter. Complete with a 3G broadband connection, a GPS receiver and two wifi cards, SkyNET can fly close enough to your home to hone in on your wireless network and attack it from the air.  Once the drone’s airborne or remote computers crack your password, it can turn your computer into a zombie that’s part of a botnet used for hacking, denial of service attacks and spamming.

Designed to be used in urban areas, SkyNET is a hacker’s dream – a cheap ($600), easy to construct wifi hacking machine that’s difficult to trace.  That’s because it controls the botnet from the drone instead of from an Internet connection.

The Stevens researchers say they created SkyNET to highlight the need for stronger security on home wireless networks. WARNING:  Don’t try this at home. Using SkyNET near public institutions is a felony that will land you in prison.

 

Remember, while you’re watching the skies for wifi hacking drones, there’s still plenty of drive-by wifi hacking to worry about on the ground.

 

Wardriving Burglars Rob Seattle Area Businesses

Just last month, a federal grand jury indicted three Seattle men accused of hacking wireless business networks to steal money and sensitive personal information. Among their tactics was wardriving.  According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, one of the men drove  a black Mercedes equipped with a computer and a powerful wifi receiver used to detect business wireless networks.  Detectives also found auto parts in the car that had been purchased with stolen financial information.

Between 2008 and 2010, the trio is charged with stealing data from over a dozen businesses, while burglarizing another 41 companies. Most of the companies hacked had password protected wireless networks.  But they used outdated WEP technology which can be hacked in a matter of minutes.

Remember, it’s rare that cases of wardriving to commit crimes are ever detected or prosecuted.  That means securing your home wifi network is essential for your Internet safety.

Here’s How to Protect Your Home Wifi Network from Hackers

  • Use WPA instead of no encryption or WEP encryption.  The old WEP (Wired Equivalency Privacy) encryption has weaknesses that make it an easy target for hackers.  WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access), or even better, WPA2 has stronger encryption.
  • Change the default wireless network name and administrative password.  Network devices generally come with default names and passwords which are easy to find online. Replace them with complex ones that combine letters, numbers and punctuation.  Change them often.
  • Disable the SSID broadcast option, which allows anyone to join your wireless network.  This will prevent simple attacks, but not attacks by sophisticated hackers.
  • Make sure your firewall is turned on and your virus and malware software are up-to-date.  This can reduce the damage hackers can inflict should they gain access to your network.
  • Restrict access. Only allow authorized users to access your network. Hardware connected to a network has a MAC (media access control) address. You can restrict access to your network by filtering MAC addresses.  This will discourage accidental connections from neighbors, but not serious attacks by sophisticated hackers.
  • Use a VPN (virtual private network) like PRIVATE WiFi™to ensure that the information transmitted over your wireless network travels through a secure tunnel.  That makes it invisible to hackers.

Check out our blog on how to protect your business from hack attacks:

http://www.privatewifi.com/hacking-small-businesses-is-big-business-for-cybercriminals

In the meantime, if you’re the victim of a drive-by or fly-by wifi hack, we’d like to hear your story.  Give us a shout and tell us what happened.

 

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Jan Legnitto

Jan Legnitto is an investigative journalist and documentary producer who writes about criminal justice and intelligence issues. Jan is also a frequent contributor to the Private I blogs.