Question of the Month

Question of the Month


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Question: What’s the best way to protect my privacy on a public WiFi network?

We’re all used to being able to access Wi-Fi wherever we go these days, but how often do we actually consider the security of the handy coffee shop, airport terminal, etc. hotspots that we’re using? When you are using public Wi-Fi, there are numerous security risks that you need to be aware of. Hackers can use public hotspots to harvest your passwords, hijack your Internet session and gain control of cookies that allow them to pretend that they are you on other websites, or they can even set up “honeypots” that trick you into thinking you are using legitimate Wi-Fi while you are in fact sending them all your private information.

The first thing to do when using public Wi-Fi is to make sure you are on a genuine service. If you’re not sure, ask an employee of the business or institution you are in for the correct details.
Make sure that your connection is secure: always look for the HTTPS acronym at the beginning of a web address, and type addresses in yourself instead of clicking on links in emails or on websites. This means the traffic between yourself and the website will be encrypted. Using a VPN will encrypt all your data and offers excellent protection against hackers, although this does cost money and can interfere with the use of certain services such as Netflix.

Two-factor authentication, which is offered by most big players in the Internet nowadays, is a curse for hackers, because even if they obtain your password, they can’t get the secondary code needed to access services. If it’s offered, use it.
Finally, make sure that you don’t make it easy for hackers by having filesharing activated on your computer when you’re connected to public Wi-Fi (you might be using it to share files with your family or colleagues, fine at home or in the office but not in public). In Windows you can find sharing in the Network and Internet settings (Network and Sharing Center for Windows 7); for Macs sharing can be found in System Preferences.