2 Investigates

Your identity could be up for grabs if you don’t do this simple thing with your devices

ATLANTA — Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport averages just over a quarter million passengers every day.

For criminals looking to grab personal information, it is like being a kid in a candy store.

“Everywhere we go we have our smartphones with us, and we may have our laptops as well and you wouldn’t believe how that leaves our lives open to being exploited,” Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard said.

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Security researcher Willis McDonald told Channel 2 consumer producer Leah Dunn that crooks would be out of luck if more travelers would keep their devices updated or upgraded.

Using his laptop, McDonald was able to show Channel 2 Action News how easy it would be to capture unsecure data.

“We’ve had this open for about 5 minutes and we’ve got 570 entries so far of devices that have come within range of the laptop as people pass by through the airport,” McDonald said, pointing the tick marks on his screen which indicated the device was being used. “You can see some of these devices where we have these little tick marks that are constant. Those are devices where somebody is playing music, they’re on a phone call or what have you.”

“Or they’re transmitting data,” Dunn said.

“Or they are transmitting data somehow back and forth between devices,” McDonald said.


If the device is vulnerable, that data is up for grabs.

“They don’t even realize that they’re vulnerable because they have a device, say, here, maybe an old iPhone, like an old iPhone four, iPhone SE. Those sorts of devices that are out of date or updates are not being provided by the manufacturer,” McDonald said.

He told Channel 2 Action News that the solution is simple. Keep your devices updated. If your provider does not have an update available, you need to upgrade.

McDonald said while most phone exploits are short-term, he said the best solution is to turn your phone off and pay attention to what’s going on with the device.

“If something seems suspicious, if something strange is happening that may be an indication that you need to check your security settings, check your phone,” McDonald said.

The same applies to Bluetooth devices in your home.

“If they’re not being updated or their end of life and you can’t update them, then upgrade and get the next model, get a different model so that you can actually update those devices and prevent some of the vulnerabilities,” McDonald said.

Clark said there is one more way to keep your information safe.

“If you don’t need Bluetooth on your phone, turn it off. It takes a second. Same for your laptop, headphones, any accessories. if you’re not using them right then, turn the Bluetooth off and you’ll be safe,” he said.


VIDEO: Researcher shows us how easy it is to access other people’s Bluetooth data