5 tips to stay safe on public Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi hot spots are a blessing for travelers and anyone who just wants to do a little web surfing while having lunch or coffee in a shop. Connecting is convenient, and it helps users avoid going over their cellular data limits and getting socked with overage fees.
If you're not careful about using free public Wi-Fi, however, strangers can snoop on your email and social network conversations. Worse, if you're too casual about mobile banking or shopping, you could end up with a hacked bank account or credit card account.
Hackers with routers and readily available software set up rogue hot spots for spying and serving you fake websites. You and your tablet will think you're connecting to the coffee shop's Wi-Fi, but you've fallen into a trap.
Despite the risks, it's easy to protect yourself and thwart the bad guys. Follow these five tips to surf more safely:
• Turn off sharing
If you use a laptop, you might have it set to share files and folders with other computers at work or home. You don't want these settings on when you're using a public network.
Windows Vista, 7 and 8 make it simple to automate your sharing settings. When connecting to a public hot spot for the first time, Windows asks for a location type. Make sure you set it to “public.” This will automatically modify sharing settings for maximum safety.
On a Mac, go to System Preferences>>Sharing and make sure all the sharing boxes are unchecked. You'll have to turn on the controls again when you want to file share on your home or work network.
• Don't automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks
It's handy when your smartphone, tablet and laptop automatically connect to your home and work networks, but that can lead to trouble when you're out.
Hackers often give their rogue hot spots generic names such as Coffee Shop, Linksys or AT&T Wireless. You want to be certain you are connecting to the router of the business.
Tweak your gadgets' settings so you have to manually join networks in public. Then verify with a store employee that you are connecting to the correct network.
By the way, your home Wi-Fi is encrypted, right? If not, you're grounded from going out in public until you lock it down!
• Be smart about mobile banking and shopping
It's best to wait until you're at home to do any online banking or shopping. If you must make an emergency balance transfer or an immediate purchase to save a significant amount of money, it's safer to use a cellular connection instead of Wi-Fi.
• Use security software
Your laptop should have the same anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection that your home computer does. The firewall is particularly important when on a public network. Its entire purpose is to keep snoops out of your system.
Protect your mobile gadgets with apps such as Lookout Mobile Security.
• Look over your shoulder
Not all dangers in the digital world are high-tech. While you're watching the world go by in a busy airport lounge, a snoop could be literally looking over your shoulder with the hope that you might reveal a user name, password or credit card number.
It's called shoulder surfing, and it still works.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Cervelli’s inspiration
- Pirates hope 1st baseman Alvarez starts to regain power stroke
- Supreme Court justices ream EPA for ignoring costs to meet air standards
- More witness intimidation charges are filed against Plum teacher
- Downie, Ehrhoff lead list of likely Penguins leaving in free agency
- Pittsburgh Public Works supervisor disciplined for text message
- Murrysville native Bullock vying for health magazine’s ‘Next Fitness Star’
- 80 percent of drivers found exceeding speed limit in Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park
- Penguins bringing back defenseman Cole with 3-year extension
- Brooklyn man’s cross-state taxi ride leads straight to jail in Uniontown
- St. Vincent professor, students use interviews for drug addiction data