Beware the wicked ways of free Wi-Fi

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At a local shopping centre CHRIS MAC’s mobile phone picked up the free Wi-Fi and in this opinion piece he explains that his digital life hasn’t been the same since…

IN an earlier life, I worked in the Australian Public Service, the ATO specifically (queue the boos). One morning in 1987, my then assistant commissioner needed a letter written urgently. 

Chris Mac
Chris Mac.

So urgently, he did not have the time to send the rough draft he had prepared to “the typing pool”. Yes, it was that long ago!

The computer revolution was just beginning to take hold as our embryonic “IT techo teams” were just putting their evil plans to hook us all up to each other in cyberspace. 

Sitting in a corner, occasionally beeping and complete with green-coloured lettering and a dot-matrix printer was a PC. 

In desperation, my boss looked at it, then at me and asked: “Hey, Chris, do you know how to use that thingo?” 

He was relieved when he learned I could indeed use said “thingo”, which included a word-processing package known as “Multimate” and so the urgent letter was written and sent.

Since those salad days, we have all travelled to the point where we cannot function without any number of “thingos” to allow us to function.

One aspect is the introduction of telephones that double as a pocket-sized summary of our existence. Such devices can operate either with the benefit of a SIM card that can connect us to the world or instead use that wonderful Australian invention, Wi-Fi.

Several months ago, I visited one of our local shopping centres, with phone in pocket, of course. Normally, having heard about the warnings of the dangers of free Wi-Fi, I would turn that link off and rely on the SIM-card connection. On this occasion, I forgot to do so and the phone duly picked up the free service. 

From that day on, the email account attached to my phone has been receiving emails advising of bargains galore at several of the stores in that shopping centre. 

Fair enough, I thought, I could merely ignore and delete them. However, along with those harmless messages, came an increasingly annoying number of emails that, inter alia, offered me the chance to invest in:

  • Bitcoin. Apparently the likes of Channel 7’s David Koch (“Kochie”), legendary adventurer Dick Smith and other luminaries simply cannot shut up about how much money they allegedly make from this joyous, brave new world of wealth.
  • Something called Hemp Gummies, a supposed source of drug-induced pleasure, huh?
  • Male assistance… let’s just say you can guess what that is about, with several iterations of that delightful missive.
  • Other unsolicited gems for things such as “Chuck Gaines” for Tinnitus and surveys allegedly coming from various department stores (they don’t, hitting the reply button reveals that these messages and all the other emails like this, come from a dodgy source).

Also included are emails warning me that my accounts with Netflix, Stan, Disney (don’t have them) or with Telstra, Optus or various bank accounts, have been locked and if I just hit a magic button in the email, all will be well.

The last bit is the ultimate sucker punch, hit that magic link and your internet profile is likely to be infiltrated and identity theft would likely follow. 

As I write this, I have received more than 100 of these junk emails in three days, kept only long enough to use them as research for this piece. They have now been bulk erased.

I am not sure how to rid myself of this rubbish, “muting” the messages and referring them to a “junk” folder doesn’t seem to stop them, but here is a warning: unless you have to use it, switch off your Wi-Fi on your phone and you may avoid these dubious delights.

Chris Mac is a broadcaster with 2CC.

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  1. While I am sympathetic to the (possible) links of your use of free wi-fi to receiving spam, it’s far more likely you used your email address to sign up to a mailing list/enter a competition and it got picked up that way.

    I might also help your readers/listeners who aren’t that tech savvy (and could be worried by this tale) to note that it’s just not possible to connect your phone to a public wi-fi (or any wi-fi for that matter) without taking a number of active steps. If it connected passively on the day in question it means you had taken those active steps to establish and remember the connection previously.

    Either that or free wi-fi is part of a leftist 5G conspiracy to microchip us and establish a world government.

  2. You have to select, connect and agree to public wifi, it won’t “connect with the link on” and your email us your email, not your phone, not your wifi. You again, have to enter it. This article is so out date I want to take away your phone and PC and give you a rock.

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