Playing it safe on public wifi networks

Public wifi networks are great when they are free, like they now are at Starbucks, but you should practice some basic safety.

Most public wifi networks do not use encryption passwords to get on, it makes it easier for the baristas and cashiers who don’t have to troubleshoot why the password isn’t working on your laptop. However, that also means that what you type into any web browser or send with your email program is going over the air in plain English, easy enough for others to pick up. So, rule one, above all rules, take a second to think about what you are doing, others may be looking over your cyber shoulder.

  1. Turn off file sharing.
  2. Turn on your firewall.
  3. Any website you are at that contains private information, or where you have to type in a password, should be using SSL. That means that the beginning of the web address is https://www.somewhere.com/ , note the “s” at the end of http. Pay attention to how you read your email, for example Gmail uses SSL all the time, not just for the login, which means that reading your emails is still safe from prying eyes.
  4. Use a VPN, something that sounds high tech and would only be of use if you are connecting to another network at work. And, then you may have it already set up. You might want to use that VPN and then from the “work” computer do your web surfing and other email.
  5. Turn off your wifi when you are not using it, if it off nothing can get you, right?

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