Irony alert:  Popular Chinese app protects PII for Wi-Fi users

Irony alert: Popular Chinese app protects PII for Wi-Fi users

The hackers who stole personally identifiable information on 4 million current and former federal employees may have hailed from China, but rank-and-file Chinese are apparently tired of having their PII compromised as well.

Wifi Master Key, a Chinese app that allows users to connect  to Wi-Fi hotspots run by China Mobile without entering a login or password, is fast climbing the popularity charts, according to a report in Tech in Asia. The app has exploded in China with 270 million users, and was the 21st most popular app in that country in March. Fortune reported the company behind the app recently raised $50 million in investment capital.

The app works partly by crowdsourcing login credentials, so when users log into a Wi-Fi hotspot, their credentials are added to the database for others to use. Users however, cannot view the credentials in order to protect their own user data.

Wi-Fi is easily accessible in China today, but most hotspots are password protected or force users to enter personal information once connected. Other networks require users to enter their cell numbers in order to receive a text message with a PIN to access the Internet. These methods expose users to spam emails and text messages and serious security threats.

Wifi Master Key claims it allows users to bypass such threats by providing easy access, but critics say the app collect users’ private data without their knowledge, leaving them vulnerable to hackers.  

About the Author

Derek Major is a former reporter for GCN.

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