A Hacker's Story: Let me tell you just how easily I can steal your personal data

Posted by Kole McRae

A little bird told me people are pissed at Google. According to some sources the streetview cars roaming the country have been recording private data from people's routers. By private they mean usernames, passwords, websites visited and more.

Because of this story I decided to show all of you just how easy it is for me to get all that same information. Tonight, I grabbed my laptop and went on a mission.

Wearing pyjama pants and an ironic t-shirt, I headed towards a large apartment building near where I live. I choose it because a lot of students live there and I could easily blend in. That and I knew there would be lots of targets.

I used to be a door to door salesman, so I know a few unique ways to get into a building, but I didn't need them. As I walked up to the door, someone else was leaving. They held the door open for me and I was in. As soon as I entered, I noticed a video camera. What I planned to do would look weird on camera and I didn't want security on my butt, so I was more careful from there onwards.

I went to the elevators and clicked the button. After a few minutes of waiting, I got on. Two other people joined me and I stood uncomfortably. I had to wait for them to click their floors so I didn't get off on the same floor as them.

When I finally made it to my floor a camera greeted me. I ducked my head low and walked over to the staircase. If security was watching me, I didn't want them knowing where I was.

After dropping down a few floors and switching to the other staircase I decided to do my dirty work on the 18th floor. The building was huge and it would take hours for them to search the entire thing. I opened up my laptop and lo and behold, there were eight insecure networks. I picked one at random and hit the mother-load.

If you look at the screenshot you can see 5 IP address. That means 5 people were connected to the network. It could be a bunch of roommates but because of what I found later I decided it was probably a few people stealing the same internet.

The program you see those IP's in is called Ettercap. It's no longer in development and I don't want to go over everything it does, lets just say it makes it so I can steal usernames and passwords among other things. All I had to do was install the program and run it.

I then opened a program called WireShark (you can see it in the second screenshot). Using this program I can easily see the websites these four people were browsing. As you can see this person is browsing IMDb. And in the next screenshot the person is... err...

I'd been watching these people browse the web for a while when I decided to go a little deeper. I did a search for MSN. It's interesting what I found.

That's mostly msn telling Microsoft's server that it's still alive but a little later on I was able to read the guys entire msn conversation. I also got his e-mail and the address of the guy he was talking too. It made for an interesting read.

I'm was just doing a little creepy stalking in the name of journalism but it would be incredibly easy for someone to use this info as blackmail or to hack into people's accounts. The information was being publicly broadcasted and was easy enough to get access too. The person who set up the router didn't bother to use a password and other people decided to steal it.

Not only this, a lot of the seemingly 'secure' networks in the building were protected with WEP encoding. Which, with a few simple tools found online, is hackable within seconds. In fact, our friends at Lifehacker.com just posted a tutorial on how to do it.

I did it one way but there are thousands of other ways to get this information. Any public network (such as at Starbucks or at your university) has this information floating around for anyone to read it. Remember that next time your chatting on MSN while at school, someone nearby could be reading the conversation.

Your best defense against people like me is to password protect your router using WPA encoding. If you don't know how to do this contact your internet service provider. They will give you step by step instructions.

Also, don't browse hardcore porn on a public network.

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Kole McRae

Kole McRae

Kole is a tech journalist and all round nice guy. He was built by a mad scientist with the parts of lesser writers. He was made to destroy the world but ends up just eating ramen all day and writing tech news. more



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