How secure is that coffee shop wi-fi?


Just how secure is that free Wi-Fi?

Just a couple of Saturday’s ago I was enjoying a delicious pumpkin spice coffee at a delightful Starbucks just around the corner from the Palace Hotel.  I loved being in San Francisco.  There’s so much to take in and see…

But as I was sipping my coffee reading my Flipboard on my iPad, I had a gnawing feeling about using a pubic wi-fi.  Just how secure was the Wi-Fi??

Now since I don’t usually find myself using public wi-fi’s I wondered if it was safe...  So upon returning home I looked into logging into the coffee shop, airport, hotel lobby, or other spaces that offer free network connections.  To my surprise (well not really) I read that there are some pretty smart shaky hackers out there that take advantage of unsuspecting users.  BUT the good news is that there are ways of protecting your logon.

First of all set your laptop, iPad, or smartphone to where you have to manually select the network you want to use.  Making sure you KNOW what you’re using.  So for instance while I was at Starbucks, I chose the “starbucks” network to login to.  

I didn’t know that there are different types of encrypted sites  For example one of the wi-fi securityearliest types from over a decade ago is WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy).   If it’s a WEP network know that it is UNSECURE and treat it as such.  Better to look for WPA (Wi-Fi protected access) or even better WPA2.

If you’re browsing and reading, you need to be careful of course BUT if you’re planning on sending any personal data or paying bills online you’ll really want to make sure you’re on an encrypted website.  How can you tell?  Look for the ‘https’ in the URL – the “s” stands for “secure”.

If you’re a regular and enjoy the atmosphere of taking your laptop out for a day, there are a couple of software programs that you could use to make sure you log onto safe sites.  You could try these 2 free FireFox addons; Force-TLS or HTTPS-Everywhere

Other ways to keep safe; be sure and keep your software up to date, and turn the wi-fi off on your device when you’re not using it.  And probably one of the best ways to keep from getting hacked ~ change your passwords now and then.  

What are your thoughts about public Wi-Fi?  Please be sure and share with us any tips that you know of on how to keep us safer online….  

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