The Risks of Using China’s Public WiFi

A report on the security of China's public WiFi networks reveals users are at risk. (Image: via  pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
A report on the security of China's public WiFi networks reveals users are at risk. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

With the popularization of the Internet, free WiFi is available in many public places worldwide. Recently, it was reported that a man in China lost 6,000 yuan (approximately US$950) from his bank account after connecting to a public WiFi network for just a few minutes.

In February 2018, the Security Report of China Public WiFi in 2017 was released. According to the report, Guangdong, Zhejiang, and Sichuan ranked as the top three provinces for high Internet risk in China. Based on data from the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), there were 772 million Internet users in China as of December 2017. Of those, 753 million were mobile users.

Due to the large volume and high frequency of public WiFi usage, the networks present some security risks. Users may be targeted with malicious advertisements or even have their account passwords and personal information stolen.

Public WiFi is convenient but users may be targeted with malicious ads or even have their passwords and personal info stolen. (Image via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Public WiFi is convenient, but users may be targeted with malicious ads or even have their passwords and personal info stolen. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Mr. Fu, a Shenzhen fruit merchant, told Hong Kong media outlet Eastern Express that in September 2017, after he connected to a public WiFi network for just a few minutes, he received a notice from his bank informing him that 6,000 yuan (about US$950) had mysteriously disappeared from his account. Even though he reported the incident to the police right away, they have still had no luck in recovering his funds.

The WiFi security report goes on to state that companies providing public WiFi in China are likely to manipulate users’ personal information. They categorize and label the users based on usage locations.

For example, the users of public WiFi at 5-star hotels will be labeled as “rich,” while the users at office buildings are labeled as “white collar.” Lists of “white collar” users are very attractive to lending institutions, and public WiFi companies sell the names to them. The highest price is paid for the information for a business-traveler, which can be sold for up to 50 yuan (about US$8).

Translated by Jean Chen

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