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WiFi Master Key helps you connect to other private Wi-Fi networks (Picture: WiFi Master Key)

App that lets you use other people’s Wi-Fi is blasted by Chinese state media

WiFi Master Key crowdsources login details and has over 900 million users

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

Chinese state media criticized apps that let you use other people’s Wi-Fi networks, accusing them of stealing passwords and exposing private information.

WiFi Master Key is one of the most popular apps in China. It claims to have over 900 million users, and one report said it even topped WeChat as the most downloaded app in the country in August of 2016.

The app crowdsources Wi-Fi details, allowing people to hop on to private networks. Once you install the app, you’re sharing your own Wi-Fi network details with everyone else -- and they’re sharing their networks with you.

WiFi Master Key helps you connect to other private Wi-Fi networks. (Picture: WiFi Master Key)
But many say the app doesn’t just share your own network with other users. They say it also shares every Wi-Fi network you’ve connected to with your phone. Ever use a friend’s Wi-Fi, or the network at work? Those are allegedly also shared by WiFi Master Key.

And being China, WiFi Master Key isn’t the only app of its type. One of the clones, WiFi Key, apparently showed passwords for the networks you’re connecting to.

State-run TV channel CCTV accused the apps of “unscrupulously stealing passwords” in a story that lasted 24 minutes. Reporters roamed around Beijing and Shanghai, successfully connecting to several private networks -- including a Wi-Fi network at one Beijing branch of the Bank of China that was set up for internal use only.
After the story aired, the companies behind the apps both apologized for “causing trouble to the public,” and WiFi Key deleted the feature that shows passwords. WiFi Master Key’s maker also spoke to Xinhua, saying all passwords are encrypted and developers don’t have access to them.
But it may not be enough to help: The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology ordered local governments to further investigate the apps to see if they violate the China’s cybersecurity laws.

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.