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Public Wi-Fi is everywhere. It can be anything from the free Wi-Fi in a coffee shop to the Wi-Fi you access when staying at a hotel. Sometimes referred to as “hotspots,” public Wi-Fi is a Wi-Fi network that is open for anyone to connect. Once you have connected to the network once, your device might auto-connect the next time.
Public Wi-Fi is not the same as your home Wi-Fi. Your Wi-Fi at home should be password protected and safe for you to use with your personal or financial data.
Identity theft is a real worry when using public Wi-Fi. The biggest threat is a hacker can position himself between you and the connection point. So, your information will go through the hacker while connecting to the Internet. If that happens, the hacker will be able to listen to all forms of communication you are transmitting (for example; emails, messages, photo or file transfers.) The best practice would be not to visit sites where you give private and personal information.
Hackers also like to use public Wi-Fi to distribute malware. The hacker might cause a pop-up window on your computer where once you click it, the malware is downloaded on your device. If a pop-up happens, don’t click anywhere on it. Instead, hit Ctrl Alt Delete at the same time to go to your Task Manager, then close the browser window by clicking End Task. On a phone or tablet, close the browser app completely (usually by swiping up or to the side.)
What Not to Access
There are a few websites that you should not log into while using a public Wi-Fi network. It is best not to enter your credit card info or any other personal info while connected. If you must purchase something using a credit card while connected to public Wi-Fi, it is safer to turn off your Wi-Fi and use cell phone data.
Here are a few sites not to visit:
- Personal bank accounts
- Healthcare accounts
- Credit card accounts
- Shopping sites which you access your credit cards
- Any account with your social security number
What To Do
When using public Wi-Fi, make sure to connect to the correct Wi-Fi connection. Normally the business offering the Wi-Fi will give you information, or there will be a sign stating the correct network name and possibly a password. Ensure the network name shows up on your device exactly like the one listed before connecting.
Another tip is only to connect to secure sites, for example, sites that have HTTPS in front of them. The “S” on the end of HTTP means that it is secure. It is a best practice to always look for the “s” before doing anything online. When you are done, make sure you log off of all accounts.
Public Wi-Fi serves a purpose. It allows people to work and study together. It helps those without home Internet stay connected. It allows you some entertainment while waiting or enjoying your coffee. Just be cautious and keep yourself safe!
-Holly Stormo, The Marketeer