Olympic Travelers Be Warned: Rio Hackers Turn to Fake Wi-Fi Hotspots

August 10, 2016         By: Steven Anderson

Planning a trip to Rio for the Olympics? Maybe you’re already there and waiting to see if a couch really did impact the outcome of a kayaking event?

Those down in Rio, meanwhile, have a lot more to watch out for than wayward furniture: hackers have taken advantage of the desire for Wi-Fi access in the area, and are offering it as bait in a stronger trap than some may have expected.

The reports so far suggest that phishing websites seeking payment information for Olympic tickets that don’t actually exist are certainly in play, but a much greater threat is on hand for those already on the ground.

Some Wi-Fi access points are actually counterfeit hotspots, not only allowing access to the Internet, but also logging activity and data points. This can include password data and other login credentials, as well as the potential to have users download malware during use.

Worse is how widespread the problem seems to be. Just last month—well before the Olympics—Kaspersky Lab took to Rio to analyze the wireless access points in the area, and discovered that almost one in four of the over 4,500 points analyzed were considered “vulnerable or insecure.”

With insecure websites seeking payment information, and Wi-Fi access points potentially scooping up data at a rate approximate to a two-coin flip that turns up two heads, perhaps the best strategy in facing such odds is to just not go to Rio at all. Those who go, however, are advised to pay particular attention to security; upgrade antivirus programs, firewalls and the like. Also, vigilance will be called for after the fact; it may be a good idea to change any passwords used after leaving the region, or stay out of any system that calls for a connection to a payment system. This will make this particularly inconvenient for those planning to use a mobile payment system, but in a case like this, it might be better to carry a little cash than open up one’s credit or debit card to outside intruders.

Mobile payments—mobile use or even Internet use in general—will always call for a little extra vigilance, but those planning a trip to Rio for the Olympics may want to have a little extra vigilance in the face of some clearly expanded threats.