Target 11: How to best protect your private information from hackers


PITTSBURGH - Free Wi-Fi is available in locations throughout Pittsburgh, but not all are secure, leaving users’ devices open to hackers.

Target 11’s Rick Earle uncovered how hackers are stealing information from people who log on to these unsecured networks.

With the help of Internet security expert Rick Wallace, a bogus wireless network named “Free Wi-Fi Pittsburgh” was set up downtown that allowed anyone to connect with their devices. A simple task, said Wallace, who used a $20 long-range Wi-Fi network adapter.

Within minutes, Earle reported a dozen laptops and mobile devices had connected to the network, putting personal information at risk had the network been created by a hacker.

Hackers have the ability to use software downloaded from the Internet to obtain user names and passwords from Wi-Fi network users.

“It's scary the information you can get out there these days. Social Security numbers, passwords, especially passwords. You can get into people’s bank accounts and everything like that, so you have to be careful,” said Jay Jarmell.

An easy step can be taken to prevent stolen passwords. Smartphone settings can be changed to ensure that they do not automatically connect to Wi-Fi.

But when using a public or unsecured network, look for https in the URL. If those five letters do not exist, that should raise a red flag.