Free Wi-Fi is one of the finer selling points of many modern hangouts, from coffee shops to city libraries. As a matter of fact, it is not unusual for people to spend hours at a time connected to these Internet hubs. However, the recent media spotlight on privacy and the web has many people questioning their Internet usage, especially in the public realm. Is your personal information safe over Wi-Fi connections? Unfortunately, you may need to think twice before you log on.
Public Wi-Fi is unsafe by definition. That is because you are sharing Internet access along the same lines with a group of complete strangers–some who may not have the best of intentions when it comes to respecting your privacy. It is all too easy for hackers, scammers, and identity thieves to intercept the data you are sending on the web and use it for less than honorable purposes. How serious is this threat? Statistically, you are much more likely to experience a hacking over public Wi-Fi than you are a home burglary, and the number of Wi-Fi predators is increasing. As Monmouth County Prosecutor Kevin Clark puts it, “this is a big business.”
What Kind of Information should you Protect?
Clark advises that you should approach every single public Wi-Fi session with the mindset that an unknown third party will be privy to everything you do while on the web. If there’s information that you wouldn’t want a stranger having about you, then that’s information you should not be sharing during a public Wi-Fi session. Likely, this includes things like your credit card and bank account numbers, sensitive identifying data (social security and drivers license numbers, for example), and passwords into your online accounts. Basically, you should avoid Internet shopping altogether while on public Wi-Fi, and as well should consider avoiding social networking sites.
Other Tips for Keeping yourself Safe while on Public Wi-Fi.
You must be vigilant against the possibility of data and identity theft while on public Wi-Fi. In addition to exercising prudence in regards to the amount and type of information you send across the web, you should also take measures to safeguard the data in your computing device(s). This means using a firewall program and changing your account passwords regularly; or maybe even considering a free vpn service. You might also want to consider using two-factor authentication to double-arm your data with password protection.
There is no getting around the fact that your personal data is vulnerable any time you access the web through a Wi-Fi hot spot. However, there are things you can do to lessen the risk of being hacked. Your first line of defense is awareness, so always be conscientious of the dangers of public Wi-Fi.
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