Hot Spot Security

Feb 20, 2013 by

wi-fi logoConfession: I’m pretty sloppy about security when I use public Wi-Fi networks, or “hot spots.” I know vaguely that bad guys out there can capture my information from an unsecured network and potentially do lots of damage. But for some indefensible reason I’ve never gotten educated about the risks and steps to take to protect myself. I’m resolving to do better.

Unsecure Public Wi-Fi Is Standard

Hot spots these days are everywhere: Airports, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, libraries—just about every category of public business has added or is adding free Wi-Fi. For the convenience of the Wi-Fi provider or for practicality, an overwhelming majority of these networks are unsecure—no password is needed for access (though you may be required to pledge that you’ll lobby your children to drink nothing but Starbucks when they become coffee drinkers, for example). That means a bad guy with the right software and hardware can grab out of the unsecure Wi-Fi space anything you launch into it or retrieve from it.

Do You Bank Online?

If you log in to your bank’s or broker’s system from an unsecure network, your username and password may be captured from the magical energy that transports data from your computer to the network thingamajig (not to get all technical on you). Even a dolt like me could access your accounts—just as you do—with that data in hand. And if you’re like me and sometimes use the same username and password for different log-ins (another reform I need to make), the bad guy may soon be assuming your identity on your social media accounts, taking out loans in your name, commandeering your cell phone account, and all manner of incredibly nasty and potentially costly mischief.

Protect Yourself From Hot Spot ID Theft!

I know this stuff is tedious and a bother for most of us, but the reality is that we all need to get a little bit educated about the basics of Wi-Fi security, just like you learn how to keep your home secure. Or you can choose never to use a public Wi-Fi network, but that’s no fun, and your friends will crack wise about you (probably while someone is stealing their information).

Here’s a 3-minute video from the FTC that will give you the basics.

What Do You Think?

Do you practice good security hygiene while accessing public Wi-Fi? Do you avoid public Wi-Fi? Do you have any reason to suspect you may have been victimized by a Wi-Fi hoodlum?

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