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How Do I Protect Myself When Using Wi-Fi?

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Wi-Fi is everywhere. Whether you travel for business or simply need Internet access while out and about, your options are plentiful. You can sign on at airports, hotels, coffee shops, fast food restaurants, and now, even airplanes.

Wi-Fi wasn’t born to be secure; it was born to be convenient. Wireless networks broadcast messages using radio and are therefore more susceptible to eavesdropping than wired networks.

Today, with criminal hackers as sophisticated as ever, if you are using an open unsecured network on your mobile device, you risk exposing your data. There are many ways for hackers to see who’s connected on a wireless connection, and to gain access to your information including passwords, emails, and all the data on your device.

To protect yourself and your data when using Wi-Fi, you should:

Turn it off: the most secure Wi-Fi is one that is turned off. Disabling the Wi-Fi signal on your device prevents anyone from seeing your device and prevents your mobile from randomly connecting to just any available Wi-Fi.

Limit your use of hotspots: When you’re away from your home or work network, use a 3G or 4G data connection instead since most mobile phone providers encrypt the traffic between cell towers and your device.

Use a Wi-Fi connection is protected: Make sure you don’t see the message you are “connecting to an unsecured network.” You may also need a password or code to get access to the Wi-Fi connection.

Use a VPN: a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one set up with encryption to protect your data from unauthorized access. A VPN may be available through your workplace or at home. A quick search in your mobiles application store will quickly result in numerous free and paid apps to go online in a VPN.

Only use https: Hypertext transfer Protocol (http) with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL, hence the S) is a more secure option set up by a website that knows security is essential. Look for https:// in the address bar signifying it’s a secure page. Even on an open unsecure wireless connection https is more secure.

If you do use public Wi-Fi, make sure not shop online or access your personal and financial sites. And remember to keep in mind that potentially anything you are doing online can be accessed by someone.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Evangelist to McAfee. See him on Anderson Cooper discussing mobile security and identity theft(Disclosures)

About the Author
ROBERT SICILIANO, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com is fiercely committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds. His "tell it like it is" style is sought after by major media outlets, executives in the C-Suite of leading corporations, meeting planners, and community leaders to get the straight talk they need to stay safe in a world in which physical and virtual crime is commonplace. Siciliano is accessible, real, professional, and ready to weigh in and comment at a moment's notice on breaking news.

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