In this highly technical world we live in, filled with all sorts of gadgets and devices designed to keep us in touch with family, friends and business associates, the once upon a time convenience of access to the internet has become almost as necessary to some people as breathing. The internet can be accessed from your phone while in a car, from your home for pleasure or business and of course from your place of business. The access point to look out for though is accessing the internet from a public Wi-Fi hotspot. These almost too convenient access points to the World Wide Web can be found just about anywhere. Airports, dealerships, fast food restaurants and hotel rooms just to name a few.
The problem with public Wi-Fi is just that, it is public. If you are able to access the internet with your device, someone else (with less than pure intentions) can make the same access as you and if they are smart enough, peek in on what you are doing and make off with personal data of yours that you don’t want in the wrong hands. This article will discuss some of the steps and practices you can put in place to help protect yourself and your data from these internet Pirates. Please refer to our March 15th article for more details on how “bad guys” steal information using the internet: http://blog.pistolstar.us/blog/is-it-really-a-problem-when-connected-to-a-rogue-wireless-network/.
Your data should always be transmitted over a connection that encrypts the data before sending it to the intended service. Gmail has been providing this service since January of 2010. You know your data is protected if the URL has the HTTPS acronym in the beginning. The S stands for Secure Socket Layer and will ensure that your data is encrypted as it travels across the wires or through the air.
Many companies setup VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) for their employees to safely connect to the corporate network from home or while traveling. VPNs automatically encrypt all the data being exchanged between your computer and other network machines. You can also find open source VPNs available for use by individual users. If VPN is not an option for you and you must connect from a public Wi-Fi, use a Wi-Fi hotspot that charges for use and verify before paying that the connection will be secure. If VPN or a paid hotspot are not options for you, but your daily routine requires that you use public Wi-Fi, you can consider purchasing and using a wireless card as it should cost less than $10/month.
If you access the internet from your mobile device, you may be in luck. Many mobile devices have built in encryption that can easily be configured through the settings on your phone. Another good idea is to keep up with the security updates for your mobile device.
And sometimes it’s the simplest measures that keep us the safest. Just by changing your connection habits, you can save money and stay protected at the same time. Never send credit card, bank account or other sensitive information through email. If the data is not being transmitted, it cannot be compromised. Don’t connect to public or unsecured networks. Pace yourself and only perform the important transactions from home and never from a public network.
If you can learn to stay aware of what type of network you are connecting to and also have the discipline to conduct your sensitive transactions over a secure connection, you should be able to continue to enjoy the internet with little or no worries.