No time to stop by your office before your next appointment? There’s a bookstore with free Wi-Fi right down the street…But how safe is the bookstore computer network? Tons of other unknown users are connected…Could the innocent-looking, coffee-drinking dude at the next table be sending a virus through the free Wi-Fi network as we speak? How safe is free Wi-Fi? How can you stay secure on an unsecure network?
When connecting to a free Wi-Fi hotspot…
- The security of your connection depends upon how it was setup by the provider. The free Wi-Fi could be setup with wireless encryption and settings to keep users segregated from each other, which may require you to take some steps to obtain a username & password from the provider. It could also be completely open with no encryption or security measures to make it as easy as possible for you to connect…and anyone else.
- It’s best to err on the side of caution and assume that anything you will be doing can be logged, accessed or intercepted. Malicious individuals can simply hop onto the wireless traffic, run programs that will “sniff out” the computer network and eventually crack the wireless encryption, allowing them to see what other users are accessing. Avoiding activity such as credit card transactions, accessing bank accounts or any other sensitive actions should be avoided. Viruses and other attacks can also spread through networks. This is why you want to ensure you have up-to-date Antivirus and a Firewall, which helps prevent access to your system.