Wireless connections can cost hundreds of dollars annually, so it makes fiscal sense that many people seek out free connections when they are out and about. But free doesn’t necessarily mean secure.
By now you’ve heard all the warnings that publicly connected Wi-Fi, such as that found in coffee shops, airports and hotels, are vulnerable to sniffers. Sniffers read the wireless data as it is transmitted through the air and convert it into words, numbers and computer code so other devices and administrators (including those with poor intentions) can read it.
Public Wi-Fi usually means that access is free and not password protected—which often means the Wi-Fi is unsecured, unprotected, unencrypted and just plain open.
Here’s how you can protect your data when out on a public network.
#1. Turn on automatic Windows Updates. In older versions of the Windows XP operating system, updates were all manual. With Windows XP SP2, updates are automatic by default. Windows Vista, 7 and 8 all have auto updates on by default. Keep it that way—there’s a reason for that. The reason is that attackers use certain software programs to search out vulnerabilities from outdated, unpatched systems.
#2. Turn off file sharing. On an encrypted home network, it’s reasonable to share files and folders with everyone in your family or with all the devices you access from different locations of your home and office. However, when you are out and about and accessing unsecured Wi-Fi, your data will be vulnerable due to settings in your firewall. With new Windows versions, you can specify whether or not you are on a “home” network, as opposed to a “public” network. Choose wisely; Microsoft has all the information here. At the most basic level, it is best to turn off all file sharing when heading out. Depending on your operating system, use these instructions from Carnegie Mellon to find out more.
#3. Don’t automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks. When initially connecting to a wireless network, we are often faced with a checkbox or option to “automatically connect” to the network in the future. Uncheck this and always manually connect. If your home network is “Netgear” and you are somewhere and your device sees another network named “Netgear,” your device will connect to its namesake—which may not necessarily be as safe, potentially leaving your device vulnerable to anyone monitoring that new network.
#4. Confirm the network you are connecting to. Granted, this is easier said than done. There are rogue networks called “evil twins” that criminals set up; they are designed to lure you into connecting by spoofing the name of a legitimate network. For example, you may use what you see as “Starbucks Wi-Fi” to connect while you’re sipping your latte, but you may also see a listing for “FREE Starbucks Wi-Fi.” Which one—if either—is for real? Such setups are designed to lure you in—and once connected, your data might get filtered through a criminal’s device.
#5. Use a freeVPN for Wi-Fi security like Hotspot Shield. Hotspot Shield creates a virtual private network (VPN) between your laptop or iPhone and our Internetgateway. This impenetrable tunnel prevents snoopers, hackers and ISPs from viewing your web browsing activities, instant messages, downloads, credit card information or anything else you send over the network.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft expert consultant to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.
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.
- 5 Ways to Limit Mobile WiFi Risks
WiFi is everywhere, and some connections are more secure than others. There are five ways to ensure more secure use of a mobile WiFi connection: Turn off WiFi. The most secure WiFi is one that is turned off. Disabling the WiFi signal on your device prevents anyone from seeing your device. If WiFi is turned off,
- How to Protect WiFi When Flying
When getting on a flight that’s three to five hours (or more), many business professionals wrestle in their heads whether to spend the $12.95 on airplane WiFi, take a nap or watch the movie—or, if their company is paying for it, they might do all three. But here’s the thing: If you are connecting to
- Steps to Take When Connecting to WiFi at the Coffee Shop
Consumers are oblivious to the dangers of connecting in a free wireless environment. If they actually knew how vulnerable they are, all that coffee shops would do is sell coffee.Nobody would stick around and connect to the internet. Everyone—and I mean everyone—always asks me if they should connect to public WiFi. The short answer is yes,
- 3 Wi-Fi Myths That Put Your Data at Risk
The holidays are over, the Consumer Electronics Show has passed, and now you have all these new shiny wireless gadgets you’re just itching to play with. Now, before you go and connect to the internet, please understand that it’s all fun and games until someone gets hacked. And many times, this means when you are
- How Protected is My Tablet on WiFi?
To understand how protected you are, you need to understand how unprotected free public wireless is. This has nothing to do with how secure Apple devices are compared to Android. By default, free public wireless is open and unencrypted, and the data that travels over it from each device to the router is naked for
Leave a Comment
You must be logged in to post a comment.