It is common sense not to do your online banking over a public WiFi, but have you ever stopped and asked yourself: shouldn’t online banking be secure – it is encrypted, after all? The sad and somewhat scary truth is that it doesn’t matter! Your favorite online retailer may boast with “secure online shopping experience,” but that doesn’t mean that you should go online shopping for your new shoes while drinking cappuccino in a cafe.
There are three main reasons why public and unsecured WiFi hotspots can be dangerous. Since the network is open, there is always the possibility of “snooping”; only one compromised machine could compromise the whole network, and even the hotspot itself could be malicious.
Never send any sensitive personal or business information over a public or unsecured WiFi hotspot ever! If to access a website, you need to log in, wait until you can do so over a secure connection. Don’t let malicious hackers trick you into connecting to a fake hotspot that, at a glance, resembles those offered at cafes or other public places, but is set up for their nefarious purposes. Always verify the name of the WiFi network you are about to connect to!
So-called “man in the middle” attacks, which are using public WiFi networks, are becoming the favorite method of malicious hackers’ attacks. The misuse of public or unsecured WiFi networks, to steal information such as credit card numbers and passwords, is on the rise as well.
Sometimes, using public WiFi networks such as those available in your hotel room, or at the airport, is simply unavoidable. Consider registering for a virtual private network(VPN) service! VPN service works by routing all your communication which it encrypts through a physical server owned by the VPN provider before it reaches the web. The VPN, therefore, acts as a middleman, or a physical barrier, between you and the rest of the internet!
Without an additional layer of security that VPN provides, anyone with access to the network can intercept the traffic from a device you use to connect to the internet. When you are using a VPN, no one can see the websites you visit, and data that you submit. Since your information is virtually untraceable, you are invisible to the prying eyes!
However, internet technology has advanced to combat those who would try to get at your personal information, and you can use it to your advantage. Most all internet addresses begin with the familiar ‘http://,’ but occasionally you may see ones, particularly for financial institutions, that start with ‘https://’ and the address may be colored differently, depending on your web browser. That extra little ‘s’ makes all the difference.
Without going into details, the ‘s’ stands for SSL, which is a type of internet encryption. It means that anything you send to, or is sent by, the website using this technology is protected by a complicated series of passwords and ciphers that are far beyond most computers’ capabilities to crack. If you see a site utilizing ‘https://’ in their address, especially their login pages, you can be surer that your information is secure. Most banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions already utilize this technology, but many other popular websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, don’t have this encryption enabled by default.
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