What is WiFi Pineapple and why it puts your security at risk

Created to facilitate penetration testing, WiFI Pineapple can also be used for malicious purposes. Here's what it is and how it works

The dividing line between those who deal with computer security and those who, instead, look for flaws and vulnerabilities to exploit them to their own advantage can also be very thin. So it happens that a discovery made by a researcher is used by a cybercriminal to hack computer systems of any kind.

An example is the WiFi Pineapple, a device invented to facilitate the work of the so-called white hat hackers (or ethical hackers) and that, instead, ended up becoming a weapon available to hackers and hackers with few scruples. As we'll see in detail in a moment, the device can be used to steal data and information from smartphones or laptops without the owners noticing. And that's not all: if properly configured, it allows you to track browsing from mobile devices connected to what seems to be a normal Wi-Fi network. In short, in this case, beware of the pineapple.

What is WiFi Pineapple

WiFi Pineapple was initially conceived and created as a support device for network administrators and computer security experts struggling with network penetration tests (both local and geographical) or electronic devices. These tests, in particular, allow to discover if a computer network has or not vulnerabilities and what can be the possible solutions. Usually, penetration tests are conducted with the help of sophisticated software found within Linux distributions such as Kali Linux: computer tools that require advanced computer knowledge and good programming skills.

WiFi Pineapple serves to make penetration tests easier by providing the user - not necessarily a technician - everything he needs in a single device. Simply turn it on, start the guided configuration process through a simple and intuitive user interface and you're done. At this point you can conduct the test as many times as you want, perhaps using the app for Android devices to monitor the progress and find out "live" if there are any holes in the network or not.

How WiFi Pineapple works

In fact, the WiFi Pineapple is a Wi-Fi access point capable of exposing security holes and vulnerabilities in devices equipped with wireless connections (smartphones, tablets but also laptops and smartwatches, just to name a few). In particular, this device designed for computer security exploits to its advantage the automatic connection functionality to Wi-Fi networks, which usually facilitates the connection of smartphones and PCs to already "known" wireless networks. With a small difference: the WiFi Pineapple "simulates" to be one of the known networks so as to force the connection of the device and thus have access to its memory and other hardware resources.

To be even more "convincing", usually the Pineapple-access point is connected to routers equipped with connectivity to the Net, so as to allow smartphones and laptops to surf without major problems. In this way, the WiFi Pineapple also allows to control the online habits of the connected users, giving access to their browsing history and statistics.

Indigestible Fruit

In short, if this device were to end up in the wrong hands, it could be used to carry out man in the middle attacks without too much difficulty and would allow to get hold of very important personal data. Information that could be resold to marketing companies with few scruples, or used for digital blackmail or phishing campaigns.

How to defend yourself against WiFi Pineapple

Hackers usually use WiFi Pineapples to "simulate" access points to public Wi-Fi networks (such as those in bars and restaurants or those provided by many municipalities around the world). In this way, users connect without thinking too much about it, giving away their data and information more or less unconsciously.

To avoid falling into this trap, it is more than advisable to use a VPN every time you connect to a public Wi-Fi network: this allows you to encrypt your browsing data and secure your information and personal data. Also, disable automatic connection to your devices' wireless networks: you'll avoid connecting to a Pineapple WiFi unknowingly and thus increase your devices' security level.