• 07.20.16

RNC attendees were hacked by security researchers to prove a point about Wi-Fi

After setting up an array of wireless access points around the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, security firm Avast Software reports that, despite a rash of recent media and political attention to cybersecurity, visitors weren’t shy about connecting their devices to unknown wireless networks.

The firm used various network names, some essentially masquerading as other service providers, including “Google Starbucks”, “Xfinitywifi”, “Attwifi”, “I vote Trump! free Internet,” and “I vote Hillary! free Internet.” (The Trump-themed network was naturally more popular than the pro-Clinton one).

The company didn’t retain individual data, emphasizes Gagan Singh, Avast’s president of mobile. But, he says, it was able to observe device names, such as “Gagan’s iPhone,” and names of visited domains on the network—enough to detect users playing Pokémon Go and accessing Tinder.

To avoid leaking data to other network operators who might be more hostile, Singh recommends that traveling Wi-Fi users connect through a virtual private network, whether Avast’s or another provider’s.

“Obviously we prefer ours, but a number of different reputable companies have VPN products out there,” he says.SM