There are some basic things we probably should know, but we don’t. Know your fire escape plan, know your emergency contacts, and know your Wi-Fi safety. Not knowing any of these can have devastating results, and knowing them can be lifesaving.
“Free Wi-Fi” — it’s a sign of the times. You see the signs everywhere, McDonalds, Starbucks, even the local diner is offering it these days. Companies are offering it as a draw to pull people in. You can have free Internet access for the price of a coffee.
A simple click of the button and away you go, you are live on the Internet. You just planed to check the weather, and then log into Facebook for a bit. It suddenly occurs to you, that you needed to see if that check cleared yet, so you quickly log into your bank account. Check in and pop out. No harm done, you weren’t on long and no one saw anything. Besides, it’s a password protected site, that means it’s secure.
Why not, I use Wi-Fi at home?
A Wi-Fi connection sends data through the air using radio antennas and anyone else with an antenna can pick up the signal too. The Wi-Fi connection you have at your house is secured (or I hope it is) and that signal is secured with a password, which only you, and those you allow, have access to.
When you logged onto that free Wi-Fi connection, did you read the fine print? I doubt it. Many of the big companies have a disclaimer window that pops up when you connect. I am sure you just click through it, so you can have your connection, but by connecting you are agreeing to their terms. The terms usually include things such as an agreement to not engage in any illegal activities, a statement about how anything you do online is strictly your responsibility and they aren’t responsible for it, and usually there is a warning telling you that it is an unsecured network. All of this is to protect them from any potential lawsuits.
Wi-Fi hotspots are a hacker’s paradise because they are unsecured networks. Every unsecured item on your computer can be easily available to a hacker. That includes your credit card information, company data, and passwords. Even if the website is secured, your computer may not be. It wouldn’t be hard for a hacker to slip a keylogger program into your unsecured computer, so they can record every password you type.
It is up to you to use that network safely. The best way to stay secure is to not use free Wi-FI connections, but if you must, then follow these handy tips.
6 Simple Steps for Wi-Fi Safety
1. Remember that it is not secure
Wi-Fi hotspots are unsecured. If they were secured, then people would have a harder time getting online. Even if it has a password, you and everyone else there are still in the same network. You are still accessible by others on the same network.
2. If you wouldn’t say it over the phone in public, then don’t type it either.
You’re not going to walk around reciting your credit card number where everyone can hear it, so don’t type it either. Save it for later and complete your purchase at home, in the safety of your own network.
3. Look over your shoulder occasionally
Your over-sized, bright monitor is as legible to the guy at the table behind you as it is to you. If you really have to do something that needs security, at least ensure that someone isn’t reading over your shoulder.
4. Use Encrypted Sites
Many common sites, such as Facebook, have encrypted versions. Look for web pages with HTTPS as opposed to HTTP. That “S” means secured and it will encrypt your activity, so anything you do on that site is confidential.
5. Check the Network Name
Check with the staff before logging on to ensure that you know which network to use. A hacker could easily set up a fake network and gain instant access to everything on your system.
6. Use Your Systems Security
Your computer should have built-in security features, such as a firewall. Use it to block all incoming traffic and it should keep the amateur hacker at bay. Disabling file sharing, while on a public network is also an intelligent security move.
All public Wi-Fi connections should be treated as a security risk. Don’t do banking or shopping while connected to them — wait until you are at home.
Better yet, don’t connect to them with any Internet-capable unit that contains your confidential information. Have a home computer on a secure connection and use that as the only place you bank, shop or do anything that requires secure information. You don’t want to become a victim of credit card fraud, or even worse, identity theft.
You won’t be able to prevent a determined hacker, but by using caution and following these six simple steps for Wi-Fi safety, you will no longer be an “easy target”and they will move on to someone else.