How Safe Is That Public Wi-Fi?

We all do it at some point in our lives, probably a lot more then less. I am talking about going to your local coffee house and using the public Wi-Fi. It is awifi wonderful convenience and it is also great to get out of the office and relax in a different environment. In most cases, we simply connect and really do not give any though about the many risks that could be involved. Many of us will do our banking, buy stuff from Amazon and log into Facebook without even a second thought. But wait, there are things you need to consider before you potentially give a stranger your bank account password!


The first thing you do when you sit down and get that heavenly cup of coffee is to log into the restaurants free Wi-Fi. You check the list and you see what appears to be the company’s Wi-Fi connection, or is it. Before connecting, it is always wise to be sure the Wi-Fi name matches the business you are connecting to. It is always best to ask. The reason I say this is because it is extremely easy for an unknown patron to create a WI-FI hotspot with a similar name to try and lure you into his fake network. Once you connect to the “fake” network, pretty much anything goes. The network “owner” will have access to your files, passwords etc. So be sure you are connected to the correct wireless network.


Even if you are connected to the proper network, you have to remember that a public Wi-Fi is not a secure connection. It is fine for general surfing and doing basic Internet activities but under no circumstances should you do banking or even use your credit card online while connected. Always do these types of transactions in your own secured home network. If you are using a public network, always be sure your firewall is turned on. Unlike your home environment where your router protects you, you do not have a hardware firewall in place when using a public wireless connection.


One way to ensure you are using the highest firewall standards as possible is to be sure your connection is set to Public. To do this go to Control Panel and click on Network and Internet. Next choose Network and Sharing Center. Look to see what setting your network is set to. If it says Public you are good to go if it says Home or Work you need to make some changes. First, click on the Home network link and a Set Network Location window will open. In the box, choose the Public network option. This will ensure that the highest security is in place giving you the best protection possible.


When at a public location your files are not the only things that are at risk. What about your valuable computer? I have seen many times where folks will get up to refresh that cup of coffee and leave their computers unattended at the table. Even though it might be only for a minute or two it is enough time for a seasoned thief to take off with your entire computer. You did password protect your machine didn’t you? Once in the hands of a thief your computer and all its contents are fair game. Even with a password a witty thief can remove the hardrive and have free roaming of all your files.


Along with security how about some simple rules to help keep others from hating you while you are drinking coffee? The first rule is to come fully charged. Remember, there are only a limited number of seats that are near an outlet. Secondly, be sure you buy something. It is not good practice to use a local Wi-Fi with out at least buying a cup of coffee or a pastry.
If you are there for an extended period of time, buy that second cup. The third rule is not to stream movies. Remember that others are sharing the same connection as you are. If you are streaming Netflix, you could be slowing down the entire coffee shop. Do your streaming at home. Last but not least, turn the volume down on your computer. Nobody wants to hear the rock song that plays every time you get a new e-mail. It might sound cool to you but for others it could be extremely annoying!


In short, public Wi-Fi is a great way to get a break from the office or home environment but it is a good idea to follow these no nonsense rules. It will help keep you safe and make sure the locals do not try to break your computer one night while you are sleeping.






Tagged with: Public Wi-Fi
Posted in Wi-Fi

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