Public WiFi® is everywhere you go, such as at coffee shops, libraries, print shops and even some fast food restaurants. You can easily connect your laptop to it and you will be surfing the web in no time at all. Although it is convenient, it may not be safe. Hackers and scammers can tap into your unsecured connections and easily steal your personal information. You can protect your computer if you take a couple of precautions.
When you are using public WiFi®, make sure to use a firewall. Firewalls give you extra protection, though not foolproof, from people trying to scam your information. Windows XP and Vista operating systems have built in firewalls. If you need to set up a firewall on your laptop, visit the Microsoft website.
Public WiFi® locations are not the place to conduct business that involves the use of private information. If a scammer hacks into your computer, all of your — or your customer's — personal information will be obtained. Even if you have a firewall, there is no guarantee that your information won't be stolen. Save business-related work for the office.
It may seem like a public WiFi® location is the perfect place to do a little online shopping. It is, in fact, the worst place. While online shopping, you are likely to use your credit card to pay for your purchases. This places your credit card information out in cyberspace for dishonest people to use. Feel free to browse your favorite online stores, but save the actual purchase until you have a secure connection.
Never balance your checking account, or use any other online banking service, when accessing the Internet at a public WiFi® location. Besides the stranger that may be looking over your shoulder, there are other people that may be tapping into your network connection. They can acquire your username and password as well as all your personal information.
Make sure when using public WiFi® that you disconnect any networked computers and file sharing. If a hacker does manage to access your computer, they will also be able to access any computers linked to your network. All the information stored on the computers will be accessible.
Disable your wireless network if you are at a location that offers public WiFi® and you aren't using your computer. This can be done by removing the wireless card or right clicking on your wireless network icon and selecting "disable." Even when not in use, your wireless connection is still at risk to be intercepted.