Who doesn’t love the convenience of Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, universities, and other public places? Problem is, oftentimes they’re not secure. If you send information through websites or mobile apps while connected to a public Wi-Fi network, that information is vulnerable to cyber-criminals. An imposter could use your account to impersonate you and scam people in your contact lists. In addition, a hacker could test your username and password to try to gain access to other websites – including sites that store your financial information.
Here’s how you can protect your information when using Wi-Fi:
- When using a hotspot, log in or send personal information only to websites you know are fully encrypted. To be secure, your entire visit to each site should be encrypted – from the time you log in to the site until you log out. If you think you’re logged in to an encrypted site but find yourself on an unencrypted page, log out right away.
- Don’t stay permanently signed in to accounts. When you’ve finished using an account, log out.
- Do not use the same password on different websites. It could give someone who gains access to one of your accounts access to many of your accounts.
- Many web browsers alert users who try to visit fraudulent websites or download malicious programs. Pay attention to these warnings, and keep your browser and security software up-to-date.
- Consider changing the settings on your mobile device so that it doesn’t automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi. That way, you have more control over when and how your device uses public Wi-Fi.
- If you regularly access online accounts through Wi-Fi hotspots, use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the internet, even on unsecured networks. You can get a personal VPN account from a VPN service provider. In addition, some organizations create VPNs to provide secure, remote access for their employees. What’s more, VPN options are available for mobile devices; they can encrypt information you send through mobile apps.
- Some Wi-Fi networks use encryption: WEP and WPA are common, but they might not protect you against all hacking programs. WPA2 is the strongest.
- Installing browser add-ons or plug-ins can help. For example, Force-TLS and HTTPS-Everywhere are free Firefox add-ons that force the browser to use encryption on popular websites that usually aren't encrypted. They don’t protect you on all websites — look for https in the URL to know a site is secure.
Remember: Don’t just assume a Wi-Fi hotspot is secure. Most Wi-Fi hotspots don’t encrypt the information you send over the internet and in fact, aren’t secure. One good way to tell if a network is secure or not, is if it requires a WPA or WPA2 password. If it doesn’t? It’s probably not secure. Always protect your information when using wireless hotspots by sending information only to sites that are fully encrypted, and avoiding the use of mobile apps that require personal or financial information.
Kobargo specializes in network security and offers Managed Security solutions to assist businesses of any size. Ask us about our managed firewall and managed wireless programs and allow us to secure your network.