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The Hidden Dangers of using “FREE” Public Wi-Fi

With Free public Wi-Fi hotspots found almost everywhere now – in coffee shops, hotels, airports and even along the street – you can find plenty of places to log onto the Internet with your mobile device. But this free access doesn’t necessarily come without a price.

Along with convenience, free public Wi-Fi hotspots can also provide an easy way for identity thieves and cybercriminals to track what you’re doing online, and steal your logins or personal information if you’re not careful.

How do they do this? The Wi-Fi signal uses radio waves. The openness of these signals at public hotspots, combined with the right eavesdropping software, can allow others to take information without your knowledge – much like someone overhearing a private conversation in a crowded restaurant.

Don’t assume that a public Wi-Fi network is safe and secure simply because it has a password. Remember, these passwords are shared, so anyone nearby can easily hop onto the network and see what you’re doing.

Tips to Use with Public Wi-Fi

Watch what sites you visit. Hold off on visiting any sites that require you to log in with a username and password such as your online banking, social networking sites or webmail. Why offer unscrupulous types information that could haunt you later? Play it safe. Wait to visit these sites until you’re on a secure, private network.

Be aware of your surroundings. As you have your laptop open in a coffee shop, hotel lobby or airport, someone may be secretly observing. Take a few moments to make sure no “shoulder surfers” are watching what you type. To help combat this, you could easily sit with your laptop screen turned away from everyone else.

In technical terms you could use a VPN (virtual private network). VPNs create a network-within-a-network solution to keep everything you do on public Wi-Fi private. Even on a password-protected network, people can still intercept the signal. VPNs can help make you invisible, allowing you to check sites without worry.

It can be both fun and relaxing to sit back and surf the Web while you enjoy a latte at a coffee shop. And sometimes it’s important to check in on your bank account, webmail, or social sites while traveling. But keep in mind that connecting to free public Wi-Fi hotspots can pose a risk. Imagine what could happen if the wrong people had your bank login information. Be mindful of your surfing habits and use these tips to help stay safe and secure online while using public Wi-Fi.

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