Beware the Wi-Fi Pineapple this Tax Season

Local News

Law enforcement is warning consumers about hacker’s taking your tax refund into their bank accounts. Experts say connecting to free Wi-Fi at coffee shops, restaurants, and airports may keep you entertained for a while, but will consume more of your time in the long run.

Juan Meza, Alamo Police Department, “Now that people are doing their taxes, they’ve found out that somebody’s been using my information and they’ve actually gotten their tax return because their information was stolen long time ago. Right now, we’ve gotten some reports where ‘hey somebody is using my information in California, somebody has my social security, they’re working’. In another total return you find out that you didn’t report working somewhere and a lot of the times it’s because somebody else is using your information.”

A cyber-security expert at South Texas College says hackers are using a device called Wi-Fi Pineapple. They do it to steal all your personal information, even if you’re only connected for a few minutes.

Francisco Salinas, STC Cybersecurity Chair says, “This Wi-Fi pineapple it’s designed to capture traffic. It’s designed to make you believe that this is the real wireless network. In reality, you’re connecting to this pineapple. By doing this I’m able to capture any of the traffic you’re generating. Any websites that you visit, any content that’s being transferred from one point to the other. The only thing I’m not able to see is anything that is encrypted.”

Salinas adds what’s concerning is users are unable to detect dummy Wi-Fi from the real ones.

“I can call my wireless network Starbucks. When you see Starbucks, you’re not going to be connecting to Starbucks because I’m going to force your computer to connect to mine instead of the real Starbucks.”

He encourages consumers to be aware of the surrounding and look out for these devices. He explains the device’s long range antenna gives the hacker’s enough signal to leave the hacking device in their car and sit next to you while stealing your information.

Salinas adds, “When you’re surfing the web and you’re going to input credentials or check your bank for example, make sure that these sites have the https: because anything that you send to those sites is going to be encrypted. Even if I was to capture that information with the Wi-Fi pineapple, I won’t be able to see it.”

Experts recommend only using public Wi-Fi that requires a purchase from the store or additional verification and staying away from those that connect automatically. They also suggest downloading a Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps on your devices to avoid being a victim of identity theft while using free Wi-Fi.

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