Play it Safe on Open Wi-Fi Networks

A Wi-Fi detector

Image via Wikipedia

Open wi-fi is just about everywhere these days. It’s found in laundromats, coffee shops, cafes, bookstores and more. As the internet service becomes more essential in our daily lives, businesses see to it that this is available to their customers. Businesses offer the service as an incentive for customers to sit down and stick around for a while and purchase more product. And customers take them up on this invitation by setting up camp with their computers to do things such as pay bills.

However, open wi-fi comes with a problem that is inherent to all open Internet access portals; that is the ease of with which hackers can lift secure data. It is not enough to use a website with an https on it. It is child’s play for a thief to use a sniffing program that plucks the passwords out of the air and saves it to their system. And what’s worse is that the user will never know that their vital information has been stolen until after the fact.

An open wi-fi signal is much the same as a broadcast TV signal. Any computer with an antenna can receive the signal that is being broadcast either up or down. Each computer that accesses the signal gets its own address to use during the session in order to keep the signals from becoming mixed up. However, a thief has no problem getting around the address and can easily intercept the data for parsing through later.

Be safe – do not use an open network for personal business. Don’t log into bank accounts or any other sensitive personal accounts. Wait until you are on a secure signal to get the business done, or do it over the phone if you can’t wait.

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