Public Wi-fi, should you use it?


Public Wi-fi, should you use it?

Currently I am sitting at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport waiting for a flight. Since I have plenty of time to burn before my flight even starts loading the question is, do I use the open/public wi-fi that is available at the airport (or coffee shop, restaurant, or shopping center)? I vote a resounding NO.

Scanning for available networks, I found 17 available networks, with 4 of them as unsecured. That was just sitting in one random terminal/gate. I’m sure if I moved around a bit I could find more or less. Your results may vary depending upon where you are at. Whether you are at a coffee shop, the mall, or even an apartment building. But fee and “Open” networks are all around us… Don’t fall for the temptation. Nothing good comes with these connections.

Avoid the “Free Public Wifi”

This wi-fi option is something that started with an early version of Windows XP. When windows didn’t find its preferred or “favorite” wi-fi connection, it would create and ad-hoc (Read More…) network. This network will not get you a connection to the internet. But it will give you a very unsecured direct connection to another computer. And if this computer is a hacker, there is a very good chance that all of your data is compromised.

Be Wary

Any unsecured wi-fi connection you find should be a red flag. Why is the connection open? Is someone trying to trap or target unsuspecting users? Sometimes. Sometimes they are legitimate connections made available for all the right reasons.

Unfortunately, the convenience of things like this also draw in those that you’d rather not be on the same network as. And those users have the sole goal of connecting to your device and stealing your data or worse.

There are tools available that will allow a user to scan the wi-fi network to see all devices that are connected. This allows this user, or even automated software (virus/malware) to look for specific systems, operating systems, and software versions for just the right target. And that could be you.

Other Options

It is getting to the point where consumers almost expect that there is a wi-fi connection wherever they are at. Users must preserve the ever precious allotment of data from your phone carrier. But what if you need more than just a connection to update your Facebook status or upload a photo to Instagram? What if you need to do real work? On a laptop?

There are a few options. If you must, and I would stress must, use an unsecured wi-fi connection, DO NOT go to any website which requires a password. Keep it to strictly looking something up or simple browsing. Any secured connection is open to man in the middle attacks. (Read More…)

When browsing, stick to websites that have an SSL certificate installed. You can tell these sites by seeing the padlock in your browser address bar, or by seeing the https versus the http. Even if a hacker is watching your traffic, use of these secured sites will ensure that they just seen garbled or encrypted data packets.

What I endorse is that you look at adding tethering or hotspot ability to your phone and/or cellular plan. This allows you a secure connection out to your wireless provider. There are questions of whether this connection is as safe as people expect, but it is orders of magnitude more secure than a public wi-fi connection.

The downfall of using your mobile phone as a hotspot, is that it is using your cellular data allotment. And depending upon what you need to do, could use a significant amount of data. Choose the work you need to do wisely when in public. If needed, bite the bullet and increase your data allotment from your cellular provider. Just one intrusion from a public wi-fi could cost you the extra you’d pay for more data. Tenfold.

Categories: Blog, Security, Wi-Fi

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