As about half of you who have smartphones probably use Apple’s iPhone, you are pretty familiar with how easy it is to connect to the multitude of AT&T public Wi-Fi networks around. If you’re traveling for work, or just hanging out at your local coffee shop, you’re likely to be checking your Facebook or Twitter updates or replying to some business emails before that big sales meeting in the morning. Under normal circumstances, you shouldn’t have to worry about some random hacker hijacking your smartphone.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case!

Who’s hijacking my iPhone?

Samy Kamkar, a security researcher out of Los Angeles, recently made a discovery when it came to these AT&T Wi-Fi networks. You may remember Samy from the MySpace worm he wrote back in 2005 that got him a million friends overnight (and 3 years probation). After visiting his local Starbucks, Samy disconnected from the AT&T Wi-Fi network and noticed that the prompt was different than normal. He then proceeded to test out what he thought was a security flaw by having his computer pretend to be an AT&T wireless hotspot and his iPhone continued to connect to it. Samy even saw a couple of other iPhones connect to his “dummy” network as well.

iPhone's Hijacked

According to Samy, as long as the wireless network name is “attwifi” and an iPhone had previously connected to one of AT&T’s public hotspots, any iPhone could automatically connect to these “dummy” networks. While connected to the network, you could be redirected to other websites, any information entered into web pages could be stolen, and email accounts could be hijacked (among other bad stuff!). Samy created a hijacking program that can intercept your Google Maps searches and modify them however he wants.

How can I help protect my iPhone from being hijacked?

Unfortunately, Apple hasn’t released a fix for this particular vulnerability yet, but fear not! There are a few things that you can do to help protect yourself from getting your iPhone hijacked!

  • Turn on the “Ask to join networks” function for your wireless
  • Choose to “Forget this network” when you disconnect from a public wi-fi connection
  • Set a unique wireless name for your home wireless connection
  • Disable your iPhone’s Wi-Fi connection when not in use

I know these suggestions can be a little frustrating at first, but they will definitely help protect you from unknown threats when surfing the Internet on your iPhone. Of course, if you ever have a question or need any smartphone support, you can contact us at PC Co-Pilots and we would be glad to help!