Wi-Fi connections at three Japanese airports allow snooping of email

Kyodo

Users of free wireless Internet connections at Narita, Kansai and Kobe airports are vulnerable to electronic eavesdropping of their email and Web browsing, according to a study by an information and communications specialist released Tuesday.

Such risks can be prevented by encrypting Wi-Fi connections, but the three airports refrain from doing so in favor of user convenience, as password entry would be required for encrypted Internet connections.

Free Wi-Fi connections are available at about 900,000 locations nationwide, including public facilities and convenience stores, but many of them are not encrypted, according to Masakatsu Morii, a professor at the graduate school of engineering at Kobe University.

“Users should understand there are risks and avoid exchanges of important information like credit card numbers,” said Morii, who conducted the research in late July.

In a test at Kansai International Airport in Osaka Prefecture, Morii sent email and browsed the Web on a PC, which he monitored using a second computer running network analysis software that can be acquired free of charge.

He was able to view the title, content and delivery address of the email, in addition to the PC’s IP address and URLs of websites he visited.

Morii achieved the same results at Narita International Airport and Kobe Airport.

According to Morii, many places like airports with a large number of visitors choose not to encrypt free Wi-Fi connections in order to skip procedures such as entering passwords.

“As we place emphasis on user convenience, we do not encrypt” Wi-Fi connections, an official at Narita said, adding the service becomes available only with user consent. “If there are important communications, we encourage the use of encrypted connection.”

  • Steve Novosel

    Use a VPN when connecting to public Wifi networks, always.