New hacking threat targets your personal information

Posted at 11:04 PM, Sep 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-09 23:35:31-04

From banking to photo albums, automobile navigation and home security systems - nowadays many people do it all online.

Our smartphones are the ultimate remote control.

We can move money or even unlock a door with just a tap on the screen - which makes our phones a target for hackers who want the same access.

You're more vulnerable than you realize.

Some thieves are easy to spot - hiding behind Halloween masks, flashing guns, demanding your wallet or purse.
But not all criminals shop in party store clearance aisles. Some are subtle, hiding in plain sight.

We call them hackers. They hang out in public places and they look like everybody else.

They wait for your laptops and cellphones to join unsecure Wi-Fi networks
where personal information can easily be seen and stolen.

The street you were born on, your mother’s maiden name and your birthdate. User names, passwords, emails and bank accounts.

“Most of the time you won't even know you were hacked if they are doing it right,” says Executive in Residence at Techtown Detroit, Gerry Roston.

Fortunately this hacker is on our side. He says all it takes is the right laptop and the right computer program.

One program that monitors and intercepts all data sent over Wi-Fi is legal and used by network administrators on a daily basis. With in seconds of launching the program - a long list of numbers is generated, containing the IP addresses of every device connected to the network and "packets" of information detailing every keystroke.

In the hands of a hacker - it's the ultimate pickpocket tool.

“Another thing people can do and they do this is they actually set up fake hotspots,” says Roston.

While all internet connected devices are vulnerable, our cell phones go with us everywhere - often connecting to available Wi-Fi automatically from a pocket or purse, exposing apps that manage credit cards, home security systems and much more.

So how do you know if you've been hacked? You might not - but here are a few things to look out for:

  • Apps opening by themselves
  • The battery draining much faster than normal
  • Unusual charges on your wireless bill

Here are important tips to protect yourself:

  • Turn off your cellphone's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as soon as you are done using it, so it doesn't automatically connect to a network without your knowledge
  • Only use secure Wi-Fi networks
  • Don't do any shopping or banking while connected to a public Wi-Fi network
  • Delete text messages containing links or asking for information - even if it appears to be from your bank. It’s a common hacker trick
  • Before downloading an app read the "permissions" it’s requesting and make sure the app comes from a trusted source. Symantec analyzed 10.8 million apps in 2015 and found that 3.3 million of those apps classified as malicious.
  • Set up an email account with a secure protocol and use encrypted services like apples iMessage
  • Keep your smartphones operating system updated

“We all put locks on our doors not to keep out professional thieves, but to keep out the casual burglar,” says Roston. “If somebody wants to hack you, you are going to be hacked. What you're trying to do is keep out the casual hacker, the one looking for easy picking. That’s who you're trying to keep out with all these methods.”