Mobile phones can put their owners at risk without them being aware of that. The device is looking for trusted Wi-Fi networks by always sending ‘joining requests’. Once it gets closer to a familiar router, it catches the Wi-Fi signal and the internet turns on. Even if this may be convenient, by sending ‘joining requests,’ a smartphone provides a lot of information about their owners and their home network.
“The Wi-Fi signal of a mobile phone can reveal a lot of information. It indicates the internet spots to which the owner has ever connected the phone. If hackers find out the name of your home router, they can track its location,” says Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN.
Unfortunately, fraudsters can collect this information easily. There are many apps that are able to gather information about all the nearby Wi-Fis. Then, public websites, such as Wigle.net, gather the data and create heatmaps of Wi-Fi hotspots, which can identify the mobile phone owner’s home address just by knowing the router’s name. In this way, Wi-Fi scanning can put mobile phone owners at various risks, without them being aware of that.
Fraudsters do not need superior technical knowledge to track your home address knowing your Wi-Fi name. “Experienced hackers may be able to reveal even more information. With the help of social engineering programs, hackers can find the names of the Wi-Fi routers. Then, they can trick people around by sending an email and pretending to be their internet service provider. They ask users to confirm their connection details,” says Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN. These details usually include various personal information such as phone number, bank account information, and other sensitive data.
Moreover, knowing someone’s Wi-Fi name, hackers can create fake public networks. They use their own router to spread the Wi-Fi signal. The name of this internet router is identical to the one in someone’s office or even public the one on the street. When people mistakenly connect to the fake Wi-Fi spots, their private information, such as bank account details, e-mails, and passwords, gets hacked.
“Having necessary Wi-Fi information, hackers can create an access point with the same name as an actual internet spot. After the user connects to the fake Wi-Fi, the hacker then can steal all the sensitive information that has been entered online,” explains Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN.
Another technique to hack a device is sending malware to a mobile phone. In this scenario, hackers send fake notifications of a system upgrade. Mobile users press the notification, and the malware is installed on their phones. By using this technique, scammers can collect sensitive data, including photos, videos, social media logins, and other private information.
The good news is that it is possible to stop your mobile phone from Wi-Fi scanning. Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN, gives advice on how to best avoid falling into the trap: “The easiest way to avoid this threat is to adjust your mobile phone settings. Both Android and iOS users can configure their Wi-Fi scanning preferences by editing their settings. They can be found on the phone’s advanced WI-Fi settings. To switch off the function, make sure “scanning always available” bottom is off. Besides that, you can turn off your router’s name broadcasting.”
Besides that, knowing that fake public hotspots exist may reduce the chances of getting hacked. “If you see two identical Wi-Fi spots in a café or a store, report it to the staff. Likewise, tell your manager if you see a fake internet spot at work. Overall, it is always important to investigate the situation if another identical Wi-Fi suddenly appears in the same place,” finishes Daniel Markuson, the digital privacy expert at NordVPN.