Tips for Using WiFi Hotspots Safely

Having an available wifi hotspot can be incredibly helpful if you need to do some business on the road. But you should take some precautions to ensure that the person on the other side of that coffee shop isn’t stealing your identity, draining your bank account, or having a shopping spree with your credit card. Here are some of the safety tips we give our own customers.

  1. Make sure your laptop or tablet security is up to date. This would include having a fully supported OS with all patches applied, an updated web browser, a personal firewall turned on, and current anti-spyware/anti-malware.
  2. Be aware of the hotspot you’re using. The hotspot at Starbucks is preferable to one you just happen to come across while you’re sitting around the mall. And a hotspot that requires patrons to use a password is better still.A new trend to watch out for is ‘hotspot fishing’. The bad guys target an area where there are many people looking for wifi access. An airport is a great example. They setup with their own laptop with hacking software and then broadcast an unsecured wifi hotspot – sometimes with the name of a nearby store or the airport’s name to try and fool users into thinking its safe. Then they wait for unsuspecting users to connect. Once they do, everything they transmit can be intercepted.
  3. Protect your passwords. When a website or your browser asks if you’d like it to remember your password, we suggest saying ‘no’. For someone that’s frequently on the road, it’s better not to have your password data stored anywhere on your computer. The exception would be if you are using an encrypted password manager like KeePass.
  4. Change settings. The default behavior on Windows systems when connecting to a new network will be to ask you if the network should be trusted or not – choose ‘Public’ or ‘Public Network’. But if your computer doesn’t ask you for some reason, make sure you turn off file sharing.
  5. Use a VPN. A VPN can encrypt your connection to a home or work network so consider connecting this way if possible.
  6. Avoid financial transactions. If at all possible, just have these wait until you get home or to a secure network. If you do have to do some e-commerce shopping, make sure the sites are encrypted and secured. Secure sites begin with an ‘https’ in the address.
  7. Be aware of your physical surroundings. When you’re engrossed in some online work it’s easy not to pay attention of people coming and going around you especially if you’re in a busy location like an airport or coffee shop. Bad guys are in many of these public areas and are ready to grab a briefcase or purse left on the floor when the owner isn’t looking.

Everyone stay safe out there!