Have You Hooked Into A Wi-Fi Lately?
Wireless Fidelity, commonly referred to as Wi-Fi – a trademark of Wi-Fi Alliance – is a connectivity technical term. Devises that are Wi-Fi enabled are able to connect to the Internet when within range of a wireless network that is connected to the Internet.
While this is a convenient option for people wanting access the Internet on the go, the Federal Trade Commission is warning users about the security dangers when it comes to hopping on a public network one might find at a coffee shop that offers it to their customers.
The Huffington Post reported that “OnGuardOnline.gov website, operated by the Federal Trade Commission, Justice Department, Homeland Security, Commerce Department and other federal agencies, is warning people to be careful when using public Wi-Fi hotspots.” When discussing public Wi-Fi Hot Spots, the agency said that users should “only log in to sites that are fully encrypted." The way you know if a site is encrypted or not is by the beginning of your web address in the top right of your browser. For instance, when you are on this website, the address begins with an “HTTP.” However, if you are logging in to your bank account information, the address starts with an “HTTPS” which represents a secure encrypted connection.
Now let's get a little technical here. The government agencies that have been watching the matter say, “hotspots that don't require a password are not secure and [they] suggest you only use hotspots with WPA (not WEP) encryption. The Wi-Fi Alliance recommends that you use WPA-2 if you have the option.”
So how can you be a safer surfer? Earlier today, OnGuardOnline released the following tips to help protect your personal information that can easily be compromised on unsecured networks:
- When using a Wi-Fi hotspot, only log in or send personal information to websites that you know are fully encrypted. And keep in mind that your entire visit to each site should be encrypted – from the time you log in to the site until you log out. If you think you’re logged in to an encrypted site but find yourself on an unencrypted page, log out right away.
- Don’t stay permanently signed in to accounts. When you’ve finished using an account, log out.
- Do not use the same password on different websites. It could give someone who gains access to one of your accounts access to many of your accounts.
- Many web browsers alert users who try to visit fraudulent websites or download malicious programs. Pay attention to these warnings, and take the extra minute or so to keep your browser and security software up-to-date.
- If you regularly access online accounts through Wi-Fi hotspots, use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the internet, even on unsecured networks. You can obtain a personal VPN account from a VPN service provider.
- Some Wi-Fi networks use encryption: WEP and WPA are the most common. WPA encryption protects your information against common hacking programs. WEP may not.
- Installing browser add-ons or plug-ins can help, too. For example, Force-TLS and HTTPS-Everywhere are free Firefox add-ons that force the browser to use encryption on popular websites that usually aren't encrypted.
Well, there you have it. But let's face it... the more you do with the Internet and the more you research what's really behind each click online, it becomes painfully apparent that nowadays, there is truly no such thing as privacy. I'm pretty sure, the only way to prevent a highly skilled hacker from accessing your computer's information is to smash it into pieces directly following your online experience.