Connect safely over open Wi-Fi networks

Ian richards By Ian “Gizmo” Richards

Using a Wi-Fi network in a coffee shop, airport, or hotel is such a serious security risk that I simply never do it without taking additional measures to protect my data and my PC.

These three techniques will keep you safe while using a public network, often without costing you anything but a small bit of time.

Public wireless networks attract data thieves

Wi-Fi may not in itself be insecure, but various implementations of the wireless technology are.

The most vulnerable of these are “open” networks, which don’t even require a password or network key to use. Unfortunately, open networks are common; indeed, most of the free networks you encounter in coffee shops, hotel lobbies, and other public spaces fall into this category.

Whenever you use an open network, the information you send and receive is exposed for all to see. And there are plenty of nasty types lurking around who want to see it. They are looking for confidential information in your e-mails, SMS messages, and other Web communications that would enable them to steal your passwords, personal identity, and money.

Stealing information from traffic on an open Wi-Fi network is relatively easy. You don’t have to be a technical expert or hacker because there is a wide range of tools available for download that allow just about anyone to tune into and record other people’s communications.

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