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Public Wi-Fi Networks-How safe are they?

These days a majority of us leave the house with some sort of a mobile device whether it is a smartphone, tablet or even a laptop that is making it easier than ever to access email and the Internet via public WI-FI networks, from coffee shops, retail stores and even doctor office waiting rooms.

Be aware that signing into these public WI-FI networks, especially those that don’t use a password, is inherently risky.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t use them but be aware that your online activities could be visible to prying eyes or even vulnerable to a virus attack. For example, the FBI recently reported a number of incidents in which hotel WI-FI networks were hacked, allowing the thieves access to users’ devices by utilizing pop-up messages asking them to download a “security update”. In fact, this turned out to be spyware that stole personal information from the devices.

So when you are out and about and you are using an “open” WI-FI network, follow these key rules to reduce the risk of being compromised:

Be Smart. When in doubt, consider any open network a security risk.
Be sure you have the right network. Hackers might set up fake networks to lure you in, so when in doubt, be sure to ask a store associate.
Avoid typing in confidential information, such as passwords or credit card numbers. It doesn’t even take a hacker to pick up on your keystrokes – any ‘neighbor’ could peek over your shoulder and check in on what you’re doing (shoulder surfing.)
Don’t click or tap on pop-ups or download files unless you’re 100% sure where they came from.
Keep your Internet security programs up to date and consider using additional network security software.

Carrie Van Beurden