The ability to access the Internet via public Wi-Fi access points can be an incredible productivity boost for business owners and travelers, but can also create a security risk for the unprepared user.
Because Wi-Fi sends your data over a radio signal between the hotspot by which you're connected and your laptop or smart phone, it's important to understand that your Wi-Fi signal can be monitored, allowing a hacker to see the contents of your e-mail messages, chat sessions, Web browsing and other potentially sensitive information.
To make it easy for customers to log on with a minimal amount of inconvenience, most public Wi-Fi hotspots offer unsecured connections that anyone can use to reach the Internet. That's fine if all of the users are legitimate, but can create a security problem if a hacker or criminal is using the free connection to intercept other users' traffic and trying to steal financial, business or personal information.
In some examples, hackers have set up false hotspots that are designed to capture user login information. Someone could sit in a public area with a legitimate hotspot and set up another one that broadcasts a wireless identity such as "free public wifi" and asks users to enter personal information to gain access.
To avoid this threat, try to check for the name of the legitimate network before you log on.
A few key pointers can help you secure your Wi-Fi browsing session and protect your confidential business information:
There are a number of dedicated VPN apps that can make mobile browsing safer on a smartphone or tablet. Leading choices include VyprVPN and AirVPN for Android, and SurfEast and Hotspot Shield for iOS.
By following prudent measures and monitoring your Wi-Fi connection carefully, you can greatly reduce the risk of your information being compromised while you conduct business at a public hotspot.