Top 5 Wi-Fi Hotspot Security Tips

Almost everyone these days has had the experience of bringing their laptop or mobile device into their favorite coffee shop, grabbing a drink and a tasty bite to eat and sitting down to surf the internet. Businesses now offer free wi-fi to their customers frequently, as an enticement to pick their establishment over the competition. And it is a fantastic service. It keeps you hanging around, purchasing more food and drinks, and provides freelancers who cannot afford an office somewhere to work that’s not the middle of their living room. But you’ve got to be careful about using these free services without forethought. Most wi-fi hotspots are unsecured, meaning anyone else on the network with a bit of computer savvy can snoop out your social media conversations and your email passwords, and even hack into your credit card or banking accounts if you’re not careful. It’s not that difficult to fake a hotspot and launch websites that snag your interest and then capture your information. So follow these top five wi-fi hotspot security tips to insure those hackers don’t pull you into a trap.

First of all, check over your devices to make sure you don’t have file sharing turned on. Many laptops ship with this setting automatically activated. It allows you to network with other computers you have at home, easily accessing music, movies and files from any device. But you certainly don’t want this activated when you’re on a public hotspot. Check your system preferences to make sure sharing is deactivated before you get on any open network.

You should also be wary of allowing your devices to automatically connect to an open wi-fi network. This is another setting that is often turned on by default, especially with tablets and smartphones that are wi-fi enabled. But this can be tricky, and plays right into the hands of hackers. Fake hotspots that are set up will often be given standard names, meant to fake out people who don’t look that closely. You want to be able to pick the network you are joining, to be sure that it is actually coming from the establishment’s router. Just adjust your settings so you have to choose a network to join when you are in public.

Even though you may have a pressing need, it’s probably a good idea to avoid doing anything that involves sensitive information over a wi-fi hotspot. That means hold off on checking your credit card balances, and wait on making bank transfers or handling bill pay transactions until you are on a password protected device. If you have built-in service, such as on smartphones and tablets, use that data for these activities instead of the public wi-fi. And always make sure you see the ‘HTTPS’ at the beginning of the URL, which means you are signing in on a secure site.

Depending on the device you are using, you might also want to engage some sort of firewall software. Today’s security software often takes wi-fi hacking into consideration. It won’t be able to prevent people from trying to get your personal information, but it will warn you if a link is fraudulent, or if you are joining an unsecured network that could endanger your private information.

Finally, don’t forget about old school criminal methods. Sometimes the easiest way to uncover someone’s password is to simply look over their shoulder while they’re typing. You everĀ try this? It may not be high tech, but it can certainly be effective. Be aware of the world around you when working on a public wi-fi network. Sometimes a little bit of paranoia will go a long way towards protecting you.

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