Our Sophos World of Warbiking tour stopped in Las Vegas this week, where we discovered that thousands of people in this fast-paced city were connecting their mobile devices to insecure wireless networks, without using any encryption, at an alarming rate.
James Lyne, Sophos global head of security research, cruised the city on his specially-equipped mountain bike, picking up the signals of Wi-Fi networks and the devices connecting to them. Vegas is a place, much like San Francisco and London, where people have a worrisome lack of security.
“Warbiking” is a term that comes from “war driving,” the practice of driving around in a car and scanning for Wi-Fi hotspots. Our intention, of course, is for education — not for spying. Check out video from our warbiking rides of other cities on this world tour at sophos.com/warbiking.
World of Warbiking: Las Vegas
So how secure are wireless users in Las Vegas? James pedaled 25 miles across the city and detected 56,200 Wi-Fi networks. Of those he scanned, half were connecting to the Internet with no encryption at all.
James also found out when he set up an open wireless network in a busy part of the city that 4,700 people connected their laptops or mobile devices to our network — without any idea if we were good guys or bad.
Many people visited personal websites like Facebook without any kind of protection for their personal data. As James explains, an attacker who controls a network can also attack you secretly.
“What was clear was just how easy it would be for attackers to secretly join Wi-Fi networks all over the city and directly attack computers or devices to steal money or information,” James explains to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
It seems that many of us are too busy or distracted to think about security when we go online from our mobile devices.
“We are swimming in Wi-Fi and more convenience technology,” James tells the Las Vegas Sun. “It’s only going to get more pervasive in our everyday lives… but we are opening ourselves up more and more to give cyber criminals power over our lives.”
Follow the Warbiking tour
The Sophos World of Warbiking tour continues to cities throughout the world. Next up: Hanoi, and more places to come.