No public wifi is ever secure

We see them everywhere. Public internet connections are even more common than Starbucks now. And they sure are handy, right? You can check your email, update your Facebook/Twitter, maybe do a little online banking to see how much you’ve spent at Starbucks this week.

However publicly available wifi is one case of where what you don’t know can hurt you. You see, anybody else who is connected to the same wireless network could potentially be eavesdropping on your activity. That means your emails and your email password, your Facebook password, and your online banking password could also be “public” for an enterprising cyber-criminal. Because of this I walways recommend that people do NOT use any publically available wifi internet for anything other than casual web surfing or services where you maybe don’t care if it gets compromised. The good news is that most banking website are immune to such eavesdropping (but not all!) and some email services are also becoming more secure.

It’s important to understand that I’m not talking about the wireless at your home, although odds are that isn’t secure either. I’m also not talking about the wireless internet that you get via your cell phone provider. A properly setup home wireless network can be very secure and cell phone-based wireless internet is automatically very secure. When I talk about “public wifi” I’m talking about the internet you get at a hotel, coffee shop, McDonald’s, or book store. Any place where other total strangers are using the same wireless connection is a place where you should avoid using email or websites that require your password.

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