While shopping this season, how many of us will take a break, grab a snack and check our bank or credit card balance before splurging on that extravagant gift? Most of us routinely enjoy public Wi-Fi offered by coffee shops, hotels, restaurants, airports and other public places, but sometimes these sources are not secure… but how can you be sure?
Fake Public Wi-Fi tricks users into thinking that they have a safe and secure internet connection at locations where they’d expect to find it. Thieves and hackers create fake access points at these public places to steal your information by either:
- Redirecting you to a fraudulent site that requests your personal information, or
- Observing your online activity while using the connection
Unsecured Wi-Fi is not password protected, it can be shared by a friend or company that may not require a password for convenience sake, but this provides opportunities for thieves. Without a secured Wi-Fi connection, hackers may direct you to the Internet through their own computers and can monitor your activity while using the connection.
Secured & Unsecured Websites– Most websites that handle sensitive information are encrypted—meaning that any information you is coded so that hackers have difficulty reading it. Being able to tell if a site is encrypted is especially important when using public Wi-Fi. Website sites transfer information through HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol), however it is not secure—look for HTTPS (“S” stands for “Secure”) in the URL at left of your address bar: (For example: https://www.dwyer.insure) All modern banks and commerce sites that handle sensitive information use HTTPS.
Using Pubic Wi-Fi Safely
- Do not provide sensitive personal information to access a public Wi-Fi Network unless you are certain that it is secure
- Avoid accessing your online bank account OR any password protected sites while using public Wi-Fi, unless the site is encrypted—look for the HTTPS.
- Keep your computer’s antivirus programs and firewall current and activated.
- Change your passwords frequently.
- Consider using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) Modern Windows machines come with a VPN installed, access on a Mac in “Network” > “System Preferences.”