Whether we are at the airport, a hotel, a shopping mall, a coffee shop or almost anywhere else, you will usually find free public Wi-Fi service offered so that we can use our cell phones, laptops or tablets to connect to the Internet.  However with this convenience can come danger.  Too many people assume that the Wi-Fi that they are using is secure and this is not always the case.  In fact, often an identity thief will go to the same coffee shop or other venue and set up his or her own Wi-Fi which is what you may unwittingly be tapping into when you think you are connecting to the Wi-Fi of the particular coffee shop or other place you find yourself at.  Technologically, it is easy to set up a phony Wi-Fi that can steal data from your cell phone, laptop or tablet and use that information to make you a victim of identity theft.  And even if you are not using the phony Wi-Fi of an identity thief, you may be using an insecure Wi-Fi that is susceptible to being hacked by a savvy identity thief who can steal your information in that way, as well.

So what can you do to make using public Wi-Fi safe?

TIPS

It is always a good idea to make sure that your cell phone, tablet or laptop has a good firewall and is protected by anti-virus and anti-malware security software that is updated with the latest security updates. It is a good idea not to use public Wi-Fi for banking or other financial transactions or, for that matter, anything that requires you to provide login credentials.  Sensitive data should not be sent over public Wi-Fi.  If you are going to use public Wi-Fi, the first thing you should do is check the hotspot name.  Identity thieves often set up their phony Wi-Fi with names that appear quite similar to the legitimate Wi-Fi. For example, the public Wi-Fi offered at your coffee shop may be named GoodCoffee while the phony one may be something that with a cursory look appears legitimate, such as Go0dCoffee.  Always make sure when using public Wi-Fi that you are on the legitimate Wi-Fi site before proceeding to use it.  Many cell phones and other devices automatically connect to nearby networks, which can connect you to the identity thief’s phony Wi-Fi before you realize it.  Therefore disable automatic connection to networks.  Finally, the best thing you can do to protect your privacy and security when using public Wi-fi is to use a Virtual Private Network app which will encrypt all of your data before sending it through the Wi-Fi connection.  Here is a link to an article I wrote about VPNs that will tell you all you need to know (and possibly more) about VPNs. https://au.norton.com/internetsecurity-wifi-how-does-a-vpn-work.html

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