A few weeks ago I was waiting for a flight in the JetBlue terminal of JFK. JetBlue offers free Wi-Fi to its customers, which is a nice touch. I powered up my laptop and this is what I saw:
If I'm your typical non-security-minded traveler, which of these networks am I most likely to connect to? I would guess that the majority of people will select one of the two with Jet Blue in the SSID, or maybe the one called Free Public Wi-Fi. Interestingly enough, the real JetBlue SSID is the one called default. Notice that it's the only one identified as a wireless network (infrastructure mode) as opposed to a computer-to-computer network (ad-hoc mode). The others are almost certainly would-be attackers attempting to lure unsuspecting travelers. If you're not paying attention, you could fall victim to a phishing attack or even a man-in-the-middle, since most people tend to ignore warnings about invalid SSL certificates when browsing the web. Good way to pick up some malware in your spare time!
I didn't bother connecting to any of these rogue networks to see what was behind them. A more sophisticated attacker wouldn't be so obvious. First, they'd be running their card in infrastructure mode so they'd appear to be an access point rather than an ad-hoc network. They'd also be using the same SSID as the genuine JetBlue network, although in this case some of the fake SSIDs might be more effective than a true "evil twin" attack.
This isn't a new problem by any means, just something I found amusing in my sleep-deprived state. I've been in a lot of airports that offered Wi-Fi, but usually it's for a fee so most people don't bother. This is the first time I've seen that many obviously rogue networks at a single time. It all boils down to consumer awareness -- and possibly the need for JetBlue to improve its Wi-Fi deployment process beyond "buy a wireless access point and plug it in."
Your best bet for avoiding rogue wi-fi networks in situations like this? Bring your cell phone, hook it up to your laptop, and connect to the Internet via GPRS.