LAS VEGAS (FOX5) - Wi-Fi hotspots like coffee shops and libraries are common, but they're often not secure.
Experts said many of us are using free Wi-Fi in a way that puts us at risk for our information to be stolen.
So FOX5 teamed up with security experts at Axiom Cyber Solutions, to demonstrate how easy it is for hackers to see into our public WiFi sessions and steal our information.
"When they use public Wi-Fi they could be making themselves vulnerable to getting hacked your information could get recorded, keystrokes, anything important they might be vulnerable to losing,” said Brent Watkins, a retired FBI agent.
Cyber security experts said new tools make it easier than ever for hackers to steal our information while we're using public Wi-Fi.
The team at Axiom Cyber Solutions plugged a device they bought online into their laptop, opened the software, and created their own wireless network.
Right away, computers and phones inside axiom's office started joining the fake network and the program starts to show what everyone else is looking at online.
"We're seeing some links they're clicking on and then if there's image content inside of that email or website that's not encrypted we can actually pull up the link right here,” cyber security engineer, Kyle Berry said.
"That website requires a username and password we're going to see that as well when they enter that in the system that's what's so dangerous about these kinds of things you don't just get generic websites you can get sensitive data from someone's laptop or phone,” Watkins said.
Inside the office, those connected to the Wi-Fi hacking tool have no idea we can see everything they're looking at.
"They won't even know the difference it's just a Wi-Fi connection, they're connected, they're getting their content delivered and we're just pocketing some of it for ourselves,” Berry said.
And it's not just websites. They are also able to gather information through apps.
"When I started streaming from iHeart radio Kyle was able to pick up some information about me that I had never shared with the app, for instance he was able to tell that I was a female, he knew that I was using an iPhone, he knew I used T-Mobile as my mobile carrier information I never told iHeart radio,” said Shannon Wilkinson, President of Axiom Cyber Solutions.
The good news: we are blocked from peeking into websites and apps that are secure but other hackers may find ways see those as well.
"Anything that is encrypted unfortunately we can't gather that. There are tools out there that may do that but what we're dealing with is just un-encrypted traffic,” Berry said.
So how can we stay safe while using public Wi-Fi?
“The best way to avoid being vulnerable on public WiFi is to not use public WiFi," Watkins said.
Experts said cell phone data is more trustworthy than public Wi-Fi, but if you have to connect our team says skip activities that could expose your personal and financial info.
"Wait until you are on one of those networks that you trust to do your banking, online shopping anything where you would transmit secure information like credit card information social security numbers anything like that,” Wilkinson said.
Bottom line, when connecting to open Wi-Fi there is no guarantee it's secure.
"You have to just assume it is unsecure every time you use one of those public spots say to yourself I am not on secure WiFi”, Watkins said.
Those who were part of our experiment for this story agreed to it beforehand. Hacking into public Wi-Fi is against the law.
Cyber Security Experts also advised people to use strong passwords and change them often.