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FREE WiFi – Be very careful!

July 15, 2010

I often ask people when I see them using their laptops in libraries, coffee shops and airports how they are protecting themselves against hackers or if they know that they are vulnerable to hacking?  98% of the people I ask don’t know that they are vulnerable.  If they are using a MAC they usually tell me that they “don’t need any security software” because Apple employees at the Apple store said so (that’s a whole other story). If they are using a PC they generally say they have security software and don’t realize what is needed when using public WiFi. Both user types think I mean anti-virus/Internet protection software and not what is required to protect yourself using WiFi.

For those of you who don’t know about public WiFi vulnerabilities here are somethings you need to know. Hackers have software that allows them to access your computer easily.  They can read your email, watch what you do, look in your files, grab any valuable information like credit card or banking data.  I’ve watched many people pay bills on-line and purchase something while in public places using WiFi. As a heads-up, buying and banking on public WiFi is something you should never do even with protection because nothing is perfect. I know that all the road warriors out there are saying “What? I’ve been doing that for years” I know you have, but mark my words, you are not safe.

So what should you do to protect emails, surfing, etc:  Use HTTPS to secure emails. Google is best for this as they provide HTTPS which automatically encrypts when you log in and throughout the email experience.  “Google doc’s” is also encrypted. The other option is to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network). Most corporate users have a VPN, but for individuals not associated with a corporate network you may want to sign up with a company that provides VPN services or you can download software that will provide VPN capabilities. VPNs are the best protection.  There are several free products that make their money by delivering ads but I don’t know how effective they are as I’ve not used them.  In any case, make a decision and get protected.

Happy surfing

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