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The dangerous cost of ‘free’ Wi-Fi

Jen A. Miller | Aug. 2, 2016
If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Free Wi-Fi is no exception to this adage. Security company Avast tested this theory by setting up a number of free fake Wi-Fi hotspots to see how many people would take the bait. They caught a lot of fish.

The solution

For those who travel often and need Wi-Fi for their devices on the go, Davis recommends buying your own hotspot. That way, you know what you're connecting to, and it's always available when you need it so you don't go hunting around for some possibly unscrupulous other connection.

If opting for public Wi-Fi, he suggests picking a network that doesn't require a login -- and even then, don't do any kind of financial transactions on that connection.

You can also turn your cell phone into a hotspot, which, if there's 4G service available, makes the connection faster than some free Wi-Fi services, says Orlando.

If you're going to use a Wi-Fi hot spot that looks like it's tied to a location -- like one with the name of the coffee shop you're in, Scott-Cowley adds to ask the staff if it's really theirs.

Even if you don't travel, be careful about telling your computer to automatically log into any public Wi-Fi network. Because while you may always work at Revolution Roasters and use their Wi-Fi, Irvine says that someone could come in and set up a Wi-Fi network with a similar name, and your computer may not be able to tell the difference.

A VPN service will shelter the information going in and out of your device to public Wi-Fi. And protect your physical device too, advises Irvine. Sometimes it's easier to take a device or physically put malware onto it when you're not looking than to get in through an internet connection.

"Travelers should be conscious of hackers who will attempt to physically steal laptops, tablets and cell phones from luggage, hotel rooms or coffee shops when they are left unattended," he says. "Also, users should never insert CDs, disks or thumb drives they found into their devices. Hackers drop these items at public places specifically to get unsuspecting individuals to plug them into their devices in order to infect them."

So even if it looks like something from a travel bureau promising discounts don't stick it into your device. You don't know where it's been.

Source: CIO


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