Companies across the country, from coffee chains to hotels, are realizing more and more that advertising free wifi will attract customers. While this is a fantastic service, it is very important to exercise a great deal of caution when taking advantage of it. Checkout read the story for more info.
Most publicly available wireless hotspots don’t utilize any encryption — meaning that all of the usernames, passwords, and chat messages you send while using them are open and available to be picked up by malicious users using the same free wireless. If you’re browsing local news sites, or saying hi to your brother across the country, the fact that someone could listen in isn’t that big a concern for most, but what happens when you log onto your banking website, or pay bills? Giving someone that kind of access is dangerous, and could lead to identity theft, unauthorized charges, and a destroyed credit history.
However, internet technology has advanced to combat those who would try to get at your personal information, and you can use it to your advantage. Most all internet addresses begin with the familiar ‘http://’, but occasionally you may see ones, particularly for financial institutions, that start with ‘https://’ and the address may be colored differently, depending on your web browser. That extra little ‘s’ makes all the difference.
Without going into details, the ‘s’ stands for SSL, which is a type of internet encryption. It means that anything you send to, or is sent by, the website using this technology is protected by a complicated series of passwords and ciphers that are far beyond most computers’ capabilities to crack. If you see a site utilizing ‘https://’ in their address, especially their login pages, you can be more sure that your information is secure. Most banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions already utilize this technology, but many other popular websites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, don’t have this encryption enabled by default.
Just as we always recommend that our clients and friends use encryption on their home wireless networks, we always recommend that, whenever possible, they use sites equipped with SSL to keep their data safe when traveling. The moral of the story is, feel free to take advantage of the free wireless provided by your favorite coffee shop, hotel, or mechanic’s office, but make sure you’re protected against people listening in.