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Seen At 11: Getting Hacked Mid-Flight Is Easier Than You Think

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork)-- Many airline passengers use their electronic devices as soon as the captain gives the okay.

But while you may think your personal information is secure, experts say it's surprisingly easy to be hacked mid-air, CBS2's Dick Brennan reported.

When a stranger on a flight stood up and said he needed to talk to Steve Petrow, he thought it was an odd request.

"I was worried. I didn't know who this man was," he said.

The man had been sitting several rows back, but knew a lot about Petrow.

"He said, 'Well you're a reporter, aren't you?'" he said.

The man not only knew that, he knew what Petrow was working on and even quoted his emails.

"That's when I practically had a heart attack in the terminal there, because I had no idea how he could possibly know that," Petrow said.

It turns out, Petrow had been hacked in-flight. What's even scarier? It can happen to almost anyone.

"It doesn't surprise me at all," security expert Manny Gomez said.

He explained many fliers assume airline Wi-Fi is secure.

"The airlines are in the business of taking us from A to B via the air, they are not in the business of providing safe cyber Internet security," he said.

Even so, some fliers CBS2 spoke with said convenience trumps security.

"It's probably not secure, but I use it anyway," one passenger said.

"Users are comfortable using it because the service is available, and I think that security is sometimes secondary," another said.

Gomez said it's fine to use the internet to watch movies or surf the Web, but not for sensitive transactions.

"You don't want a hacker to be able to hack into your bank information and then before you know it, by the time you land, you just lost all your funds in your bank account," he said.

Petrow had logged onto Gogo Wi-Fi, used by many airlines, and like many people, he didn't read the terms of use. They clearly state, "Gogo operates like an open Wi-Fi hotspot... the connection is by definition open...."

"I had made the assumption -- and this was the wrong assumption, and I own this -- that what I was doing was private," he said.

Petrow said since then, he is installed a program that offers some protection. Even so, he thinks twice before going online in-flight.

"I figure, you know, I can wait till I land and till I know I'm in a more secure place, and I do. I have learned the lesson the hard way," he said.

Experts said no system is "hack-proof," but you can help protect yourself by installing anti-virus software and making sure you use a firewall.


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