You are sitting in an airport, a coffee shop, or a hotel with your laptop computer. You have connected to a network and are happily surfing the internet. You are probably connected to an unsecured WiFi network, which is an invitation for hackers to perform a man-in-the-middle attack, to sniff out any of your internet traffic as it travels between your laptop and the router at the coffee shop. The minutes you give someone access to your network there is a possible risk. This could lead to identity theft and a whole host of unpleasant experiences. Within a few minutes, he could gain access to all your passwords, including bank accounts, emails, and anything else. Hackers can also use an unsecured WiFi connection to distribute malware.
Telling people to avoid using public WiFi because you may get a virus or be tracked, is like telling people to avoid driving a car because you may get in an accident. Can it happen? Yes. Is it likely to happen? Probably not. But we all take extra measures to prevent bad things from happening. We wear seat belts in cars, and we use anti-virus software when surfing the web. So the following are ‘the seat-belt’ alternatives I recommend regarding connection to unfamiliar wireless networks:
- Save really sensitive tasks such as online banking for a secure network, telco mobile connection, or home.
- Try not to connect to any “public” or “unsecured” networks. If you absolutely need access to the internet, pay a few dollars for the secure option.
- When on a WiFi network, look for websites that have “https” (protocol for secure communication) in the address bar.
- Employ tethering, the process of using your mobile device as a modem for your laptop by connecting them through either a USB cable or a Bluetooth or WiFi connection. Could mean extra fees, but you will be safe.
- If you really want maximum security, download and use a VPN, where a tunnel is created for your data to travel across. This tunnel is encrypted so that even if the network you are using is not encrypted, all of the information shared over the VPN is. “Hamachi” is one VPN very easy to use.
Be sensible to those measures that being put into practice to, can help you keeping your information safe.