Everyone is heard about the dangers of using free Wi-Fi to access your email, browse the Internet, check your account balance, or place your Starbucks order. But why is free Wi-Fi so dangerous to everyday folks? For starters, free Wi-Fi is available to anyone on the network. This means that it’s not encrypted, and nefarious personalities can easily intercept your communications and wreak havoc with your files, folders and ID. The most important aspect of Internet services is security. Too many people can snoop around free Wi-Fi networks, compromise your PC, smartphone, tablet or phablet, and steal sensitive information.
SSL Encryption Technology
Typically, encryption technology (SSL) will safeguard your Internet traffic from cyber criminals. If you’re sitting at a coffee shop, public library, or the hotel lobby, anyone within range of the Wi-Fi network can actually intercept your communications, browse the webpages you’re viewing, and create all sorts of problems for you. The wireless router that connects you with the Internet services provider could easily be compromised if no password or encryption is required. That’s why people place so much emphasis on encryption technology (passwords and security protocols) with their Internet traffic. Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems with connecting to a free Wi-Fi network or unsecured connection is that all your information is dangled out there for everyone to see.
Internet security consultants routinely caution against connecting to free Internet services at airports, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels and so forth. This unencrypted technology is highly risky for many reasons. Rudimentary security such as hotel passwords are insufficient protections against would-be criminals. When people can view unencrypted Internet pages, Internet forms, or website that you’re connecting to, you are at risk of identity theft, loss of data, corruption, viruses and malware. This is especially true if you’re connecting up to important sites like your online banking platform.
Securing Passwords on the Web
While your passwords will be secure, your browser may not be and anyone with enough wherewithal and savvy could hack into your Firefox, Google Chrome or other browsers to steal your passwords. Hijacking of browsing sessions is common. There are many examples of malware that allow hackers to analyze your web traffic, capture screenshots of your browsing activity, and conduct illicit operations. Two particularly malevolent programs are known as Wireshark and Firesheep, although many others have made their mark in recent years.
It is always advisable to browse the Internet with encrypted programs such as virtual private networks. A VPN service is arguably your best protection against the untoward advances of hackers. Internet users have access to a wide range of VPN service providers, many of which offer excellent ‘cloaking’ against hackers. You don’t have to pay for a VPN, there are a few great free VPNs out there. Security consultants encourage Internet browsers to use the HTTPS (secure browsing protocol) when using free Wi-Fi. However, there is no substitute for using a premium VPN service to encrypt your traffic from prying eyes. The beauty of using a VPN service is that anyone on the network will see that you’re connected to the VPN, but they will have no idea what you are browsing on the network.
How Do You Know If Your Devices Have Been Hacked?
It’s not always easy to tell if your data has been stolen. Unfortunately, many people realize too late when bills have been run up in their name, via credit cards, new accounts being opened etc. Your computer may run slower, files may not open, or content may be corrupted. In a worst-case scenario, your files may be hijacked and held for ransom with the worst of these programs. Before these types of things occur, there is a lot that can be done to protect against this. For example, insure it when you connect to public Wi-Fi you select the PUBLIC NETWORK connection from your Wi-Fi protocol. This will protect your Windows PC from sharing sensitive information over the network. If there are any security updates that Microsoft, or Mac once you to upload, be sure that you have them in place before you use free Wi-Fi. It is advisable to always use firewall protection, antivirus software and VPNs when connecting over the Internet.