What Is A WiFi Pineapple, And Can It Compromise Your Security?

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Some people love pineapples, and some people hate them. The same can be said of WiFi Pineapples, though in this case the people who love them are hackers.

A WiFi Pineapple is a small, powerful device that can be used to steal data, snoop on unsuspecting users, or compromise your online accounts.

WiFi Pineapples are among the most dangerous threats around, because they exploit some of the most basic features of the way that WiFi networks operate.

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How Does A WiFi Pineapple Work?

A WiFi Pineapple looks really similar to a standard WiFi router. That's because it is.
The only difference, in fact, is that WiFi Pineapples often have a bunch of extra aerials sticking out of the top. That's how they got their name: I guess, in a way, these extra aerials look a bit like a pineapple.

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These aerials extend the range of a WiFi Pineapple way beyond that of a standard WiFi router, and that's what makes them so dangerous.

Using a WiFi Pineapple to perform a cyber attack is pretty easy. Have you ever noticed that when you get home, your smartphone automatically connects to your home network? That's because it trusts that network, and it is trying to be useful.

Unfortunately, though, this is also a huge security flaw in the way that WiFi networks operate.

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Your devices actually have very little information about the networks they connect to: typically, only an SSID, or network name. That means that if an attacker sets up a network with the same name as one you trust, you (and your devices) won't be able to tell that it is a network controlled by a hacker.

WiFi Pineapples help hackers to trick victims into connecting to networks that they control. A Pineapple is a useful tool for this for three reasons: pineapples have a huge range, meaning a hacker can project their fake network over a broad area; they are relatively cheap to buy; and some come loaded with sophisticated tools for cracking your passwords and stealing your data.

How WiFi Pineapples Can Compromise Your Security

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Once victims connect to the fake WiFi network that has been set up by a hacker, they are extremely vulnerable to various forms of cyber attack.

Because the hacker can see and control all of the information passing over the network, they are able to steal your personal details, including passwords, photographs, and even your banking details.

They can also use a WiFi Pineapple to carry out more sophisticated forms of attack. They can pose as a 'man in the middle', for instance, intercepting the data you exchange with online services and posing as you. Or they can set up a fake phishing site to gather details on everyone connected to their fake network.

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Worst of all, WiFi Pineapples are cheap. That means that even novice hackers can afford them, and this puts potentially dangerous technology in the hands of anyone with a spare $100.

How To Avoid WiFi Pineapples

There are some pretty clear signs that a WiFi Pineapple attack is underway, and you should be aware of these.

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In a typical attack, a hacker will set up a WiFi network with the same name as a trusted one, and then flood the legitimate network with traffic in order to kick users off of it. If you are sat in a cafe or airport, for instance, and see that there are two networks called the same thing (and especially if one doesn't require a password), then there's a good chance someone around you is using a WiFi Pineapple. Don't connect to those networks.

Sometimes, though, things are not so easy. The powerful signal of a WiFi Pineapple can overwhelm standard WiFi networks, so you might not notice that the network you are connecting to is fake.

For this reason, you should make sure you practice good security protocols. These will limit the damage that a hacker can do if you do accidentally connect to their pineapple:

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  • Never, ever use sites that contain personal information over a public WiFi network,
  • Make sure that all of your online accounts are protected by strong passwords,
  • Don't enter your details into sites that looks suspicious,
  • Above all, use a VPN. A quality VPN like PureVPN encrypts all of the information you send and receive online, and that means that no-one can see what you are doing, even if you are connected to a WiFi Pineapple.

Stay Alert, Stay Safe

Above all, avoiding WiFi Pineapples is all about staying vigilant. If your connection to a WiFi network suddenly drops out, or you see multiple networks called the same thing, be on your guard.

And always, always, use a VPN, so that no-one can steal your data.