Danger is in the air!
One of the most amazing things about the world we live in is that free, wireless access to the internet is available almost everywhere. Free Wi-Fi is advertised by stores, hotels, coffee shops, restaurants… almost anyone looking to get you in their door and keep you happy. While having the ability to use the internet anywhere can be very advantageous, it can also be very risky and expose your information in ways you may not expect. Following these guidelines can help to protect you.
Wi-Fi connections, particularly those that are publically available, are never secure. Any time you are using a wireless connection, you should be careful about any information that you enter and transmit. Everyone using the Wi-Fi connection is sharing the same network and it doesn’t take a lot of effort or skill to tap into someone else’s transmissions. Keeping this in mind should cause you to be more cautious about how often you use public Wi-Fi and for what purposes.
If at all possible, do not transmit any personal information over a public Wi-Fi connection. Do not log into your bank’s website. Do not access email or any other site that requires usernames and passwords. If you do need to log into a website, be certain that you access the website through an SSL connection. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is a technology that encrypts communication between your device and the website. If you see the lock icon in the browser and the address starts with HTTPS:// instead of just HTTP://, then you are using and SSL protected site. Using an encrypted SSL site make it much harder for your information to be intercepted.
Verify the Network
Just because a location appears to have free Wi-Fi does not mean that it is actually being provided by that location. A favorite tactic of identity and information thieves is to setup their own free hotspot in a location that doesn’t have one. They will give it an appropriate name, such as Sal’s Pizza FREE Wi-Fi, and then they can capture all of the traffic that is transmitted through the connection. Check with the restaurant, hotel, or coffee shop to find out if they do offer free Wi-Fi and what the connection information is before connecting.
Prepare Your Device
Modern communication devices and computers come with a number of safeguards that can be configured in order to help protect your information. If you are using a computer, you should disable sharing and network discovery while using a public access point. Access sharing settings in Windows through the Network and Sharing Center. Sharing settings for the Mac can located under System Preferences. Also, make sure that your firewall is turned on and you have up-to-date antivirus software. No matter what device you are using, you should turn off your Wi-Fi connection any time you are not using it.