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Don't Get Hacked at the Airport

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Surfing the Web in the airport (Photo: jibilein, iStockphoto.com)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on December 26, 2008. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, airport, health and safety, Molly Feltner, technology and gadget.

Airports are a hacker's dream come true: loads of people, especially business travelers, using laptops containing valuable information to connect to the Internet. One common scheme hackers use to catch unsuspecting airport Internet users is to create free ad-hoc wireless networks that look legit, but are actually traps that allow hackers to view what travelers are doing online and steal any information sent, including passwords and credit card numbers. Hackers can also plant spyware on a computer and turn it into a "slave" that sends spam to other computers.

Here are few steps you can take to avoid these scammers:

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  • Before you leave for the airport, check your computer's network connections settings and make sure it is set up to not automatically connect to any available network. If it is, your computer could connect to a hacker network on its own, before you even notice. Turn off any file-sharing features, too.
  • Once you're at the airport and have your computer turned on, go to your network connections and carefully look at the list of available wireless networks. Some may have legitimate sounding names like "Free Airport Wi-Fi" or even something like "Secure LAX Network," but check the little icon placed before the network name before you connect. If it shows two computers sending signals to each other, it means it's a computer-to-computer ad hoc network, very likely set up by a nearby hacker who's broadcasting a wireless signal from his or her computer. It's a safe bet to not connect to any computer-to-computer network.
  • When you're online, avoid using your credit card or doing any other task involving sensitive information. Once you're finished using the Internet, manually disconnect from your wireless connection.

Do you have any pointers for avoiding getting hacked while on the road? Share your tips below.

 
 
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