MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Evey Owen joins us to talk about best practices for public wifi. Here’s a look at our conversation:
Q: How can you tell if a public wifi network is safe?
A: No public Wi-Fi network is absolutely secure and there’s no hard or fast rule to apply, but using a bit of common sense doesn’t hurt. A few warning signs to look out for are:
· public Wi-Fi network lets you log on without entering a password,
· the network has a generic-sounding name like “Free Public Wi-Fi,”
· or you’re asked to pay to use the connection. The Better Business Bureau warns that this may be a scammer trying to get you to enter credit card information so he or she can steal it.
Q: What is the “evil twin” hack?
A: One common trick is the “evil twin” hack: A scammer sets up a Wi-Fi network with a name similar to the one you’re expecting to use, hoping you’ll connect to it. Once you do and once they get in, hackers aim to steal passwords and credit card information or scan emails in search of sensitive personal data.
Q: What is a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and can it really help keep you safe?
A: Simply put, a VPN creates a virtual encrypted tunnel between you and a remote server operated by a VPN service. All your internet traffic is routed through this tunnel, so your data is protected from the hackers. There are free and paid versions of VPNs – like most things, you get what you pay for. It’s also very important to read the fine print with each one – take note of if they store your data history or not and how they can access your devices.
Q: What are the do’s and don’ts for people to protect themselves?
· Do check your device’s settings to make sure that it isn’t set to automatically connect to any available Wi-Fi network.
· Do ask the staff at an establishment that offers free Wi-Fi for the exact name of its network and make sure that’s the one you’re using.
· Do consider tethering your laptop to your phone and using your mobile provider’s data network (aka Wi-Fi Hotspot) instead of using public Wi-Fi. You may incur charges, but you’ll be more secure.
· Do consider signing up for a virtual public network, or VPN, if you travel extensively or use public Wi-Fi often. It will encrypt your data, even on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks.
· Don’t use a public Wi-Fi network to do online banking, make purchases, check email or use social media.
· Don’t trust that your mobile apps will be secure on a public network. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) cautions that many apps don’t encrypt information properly. It’s better to use them on your mobile provider’s data network.
· Don’t use the same password for all of your accounts and websites. That makes it easy for a crook who steals one password to gain access to other accounts.
· Don’t stay permanently signed in to your online accounts. The FTC recommends that you log out once you’re finished doing what you need to do.
Q: Where should people go for more information?
A: AARP’s Fraud Watch Network at www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free “watchdog alerts,” review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.