VOL. 130 | NO. 167 | Thursday, August 27, 2015
4 Tips for Staying Safe on Public Wi-Fi
PATRICK TAMBURRINO | Special to The Daily News
Think about the last time you checked your online bank account at your local coffee shop, updated social media while waiting in line at a store or caught up on your email at an airport during a layover.
Chances are you have used public Wi-Fi in lieu of your own mobile data to complete these tasks. While it’s convenient – and temping – to use public Wi-Fi to stay connected when out and about, it could also be unknowingly exposing your personal and company data to hackers.
The top Google results when searching for “public Wi-Fi hacking” include “Here's Why Public Wi-Fi is a Public Health Hazard,” “Hack any paid Wi-Fi hotspot in about 30 seconds,” and my favorite, “Seven-Year-Old Hacks Public Wi-Fi in Under 11 Minutes.”
As the name implies, “public Wi-Fi” is indeed the wireless streaming of information openly. Imposters can join an individual’s connection on public Wi-Fi to gain unauthorized information or install malware.
This is mainly because some of the largest providers of Wi-Fi hot spots in retail locations, airports, hotels and other common areas are T-Mobile and AT&T, and they don’t require data encryption traveling wirelessly between laptops and the Internet.
Rick Farina, security engineer for wireless security firm AirTight Networks, estimated in a recent USA Today article that 95 percent of Wi-Fi data traffic is unencrypted.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways to be mindful of protecting yourself when you’re surfing in a public place:
Look for “https://.” HTTPS stands for hypertext transfer protocol secure, and is the way a web server communicates with Internet browsers (e.g., Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox). Information transferred through an HTTPS server is encrypted and inhibits third parties from tapping into communications to and from the server.
Always use Virtual Private Network. If available, connect to your corporate office via VPN before transferring files to and from servers.
Exercise caution where and when you enter passwords. Many people have personal data saved on apps (banking, iTunes, e-commerce sites, etc.) and often don't realize the sensitive information saved in their online accounts is at risk when joining a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
Check your share settings. It’s important to turn on your computer’s firewall, and don't allow file sharing to happen in Windows. Remember to also disable file, printer, network discovery and public folder sharing.
Once your go through this list, turn off Wi-Fi on your device. That way, the next time you’re in range, you won’t automatically connect. The more you lessen your connections, the better off your device and data will be.
Patrick Tamburrino is the president of tamburrino inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.