One of the biggest security threats is the still vulnerable state of Wi-Fi hotspots. Most public businesses have woefully outdated unsecured networks, which makes it easy for even an novice to view your private data or hack your website. There are two types of accessible WiFi networks: ad hoc networks and traditional access point networks. Most free public Wi-Fi is an ad hoc network where you connect to another computer, rather than a router, like you would with traditional networks. Here’s some reasons to be careful the next time you are using your local coffee shop’s Wi-Fi and how to prevent cyber crime from happening to you.
For Public Wi-Fi Users:
Spilling your Hazelnut Caramel Macchiato on your laptop should not be your only concern at your local coffee shop. Public Wi-Fi is usually an unsecured ad hoc network, which doesn’t require a password or log-in credentials to access the network. Hopefully in the near future, baristas will write the Wi-Fi password on your coffee cup.
Free and simple hacking tools are available for even tech-challenged hackers. A Wi-Fi user’s personal information, documents, contacts, photos, media, and even login credentials could be scooped up quick and easy.
Hackers can retrieve passwords from your registry or by checking your keyboard activity. A browser plug-in like LastPass provides great protection because it stores your password not on your computer, but in the cloud, so it saves all your passwords so you can make them as intricate as you want.
Don’t fall for any fake networks either while you are in public. Hackers can set up fake Wi-Fi networks like “Free Wi-Fi!”. If you find yourself having to choose between “Starbucks Wi-Fi” and “Starbucks Free”, assume one or both of those networks were created by a hacker.
Don’t go on any sites on public Wi-Fi that ask you for your password, unless you want to tempt fate.
If you have to buy anything, check for the lock symbol at the bottom right of the browser or the HTTPS at the beginning of the URL. This means the site is secure enough to give up your credit card and personal information.
For Mac Users:
Recently, while I was at Blogworld’s New Media Expo, my MacBook picked up at least ten other MacBook’s in the area on the convention’s unsecured internet. Any MacBook without secure firewall settings could have been accessed without any authorization. Naturally, I freaked out and set up a firewall immediately. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3:
Click “System Preferences”, then “Security”. Put a check next to “Block all incoming connections”. Then click “Advanced” to “Enable Stealth Mode”. Be sure to also turn all file sharing off.
For Business Owners:
If you have a business, the last thing you want is for your employees to use unsecured Wi-Fi in your office. You need to protect your business and make sure no information is susceptible to leaks. Set up a personal network of your own and ditch the unsecured Wi-Fi.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a centralized infrastructure that makes sure all users are authenticated. If a user gets on the network without proper authorization, you’re still in the clear because all data is encrypted. All Internet activities can be done securely on a VPN.
There are many great VPN services to choose from, look into VyprVPN and WiTopia, or proXPN if you want to go the free route. Stay safe out there friends, and let’s continue this discussion in the comments.
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