Three UK politicians hacked while using open WiFi networks

Pierluigi Paganini July 11, 2015

A team of experts hacked three UK politicians while they were using unsecured WiFi networks to demonstrate the risks they are daily exposed.

Public Wi-Fi networks are dangerous places for our digital identity, we have explained several times the risks related to the connections to open WiFi hotspots.

Security  experts have explained these risks to three prominent UK politicians, Rt Hon David Davis MP, Mary Honeyball MEP, and Lord Strasburger, arranging for them a live demonstration of a cyber attack. Every day we find an incredible number of open WiFi networks surrounding us, in the airport, in the hotels and in many other public places, but are we aware of the risks?

The three UK politicians admitted to using regularly open WiFi networks, but confirmed to haven’s received any specific training to mitigate the risks.

F-Secure, in collaboration with penetration testing expert Mandalorian Security Services and the Cyber Security Research Institute conducted an interesting test with the collaboration of the UK politicians. They deployed a bogus malicious WiFi hotspot, but despite the politicians were aware that they were being tested, they have fallen victims of the hackers. They connected the malicious WiFi hotspot being hacked.

The attackers took control over the Tory MP David Davis’ email account, then the experts also hacked the PayPal account of the politician, too easy because Davis shared the same credentials for the several web services.

His PayPal account was then compromised, as it used the same username and password as his Gmail, a common habit.

“Well, it’s pretty horrifying, to be honest. What you have extracted was a very tough password, tougher than most people use. It’s certainly not ‘Password’.”  is the comment of the Britsh politician.

”Alarmingly, the password would have been broken no matter how strong it was. Public Wi-Fi is inherently insecure: usernames and passwords are shown in plain text in the back of a Wi-Fi access point, making them simple for a hacker to steal,” he added.

The hackers run passive sniffing of the traffic, a technique that could allow attackers to steal login tokens and impersonate the victims.

In the case of Lib Dem peer Lord Strasburger, the hackers eavesdropped a Voice over IP (VoIP) call he made from his hotel room. The pen testers recorded the call by using the popular Wireshark network analyzer which is available online for free.


Mary Honeyball MEP was hacked while surfing in an Internet in a café, the attackers in this case sent to the victim a message seemingly from Facebook which invited the politician to log back into her Facebook account. The attacker injected the dialog box into web traffic, in this way they took over the account. It’s curious that Mary Honeyball MEP is the EU committee responsible for the “We Love Wi-Fi” campaign.

“I think something should be done, because we all think that passwords make the whole thing secure. I always thought that was the point of passwords. I am surprised and shocked,” is her comment.

Sean Sullivan, the security advisor at F-Secure, explained that the use of VPN could protect users that need to access insecure public Wi-Fi networks.

“What I saw from the attacks against politicians was that even intelligent, security-savvy people can be caught out by hacks in a busy environment with lots of distractions,” explained Sullivan. “Hackers can rely on coincidence and serendipity to help them.”

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  WiFi , hacking)

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