Is Your Free Wi-Fi Hotspot Being Hacked?

Don’t you just love the convenience of free Wi-Fi hotspots? You can access your bank account, send emails, browse in a store and then buy it online for half price. Unfortunately, they’re called Hotspots because they attract hackers who want to BURN you by intercepting everything you send over these totally insecure networks. Free Wi-Fi is like using a bullhorn to have a private conversation. I’m going to show you three ways to Wi-Fi without the worries.

I’m John Sileo, and this is Sileo on Security. Free Wi-Fi is everywhere, and most of us are totally addicted to it because it gives us a faster connection and saves on our data plans. By joining free Wi-Fi hotspots, you enable hackers to “sniff” everything you send between your device and the Internet. We call these man-in-the-middle attacks because they are hijacking your data before it leaves the building.

Here are three simple ways to keep criminals out of your private computing:

First, Learn to Recognize Evil Twins! An Evil Twin is a malicious hotspot masquerading as the real thing. Data thieves name their evil twin something very close to the legitimate hotspot to lure unsuspecting surfers and then they run sniffing software that records everything sent, including usernames, passwords and account numbers. The only way to spot an evil twin is to ask the hotspot provider which network is the real one. Hotspots that require a username and password are even more secure and make it much harder to hack.

Second, Look for HTTPS in the address bar! If you HAVE to use free Wi-Fi and you’re sending something sensitive, check to make sure you’re surfing on an encrypted https:// connection. The “s” stands for Secure and encrypted means no one but you and the legitimate recipient can read it as it travels from point A to point B.

Finally, here’s the most powerful solution – Surf Using Your Smartphone. Cellular data connections are encrypted, making it exceptionally hard for a hacker to get in the middle of your transmission. Most of us pay for data by the gigabyte, which means you have to be wise about how you use your data plan. I wouldn’t recommend streaming Titanic over a cellular connection but I’d definitely use it to bank, buy online and email. If you need to go online from a larger device like a laptop or iPad, call your mobile phone company and ask about tethering. Creating personal Wi-Fi hotspots like this costs about $15 per month + data charges, but it’s a lot cheaper than having a cyber criminal cash out your investments because you surfed using an insecure connection.

Here’s your One Minute Mission: Call your cellular provider and ask them how much of your data package you use every month. If you’re maxing it out, upgrade your data plan, but only if you can afford it. Once you have some excess data, go into your settings, turn off Wi-Fi access and use your data plan whenever possible. If you’re streaming a movie temporarily turn Wi-Fi back on.

The next time you’re tempted to logon to a free Wi-Fi hotspot, ask yourself if what you’re about to send could be said over a bull horn in a public place. If not, take the steps we’ve talked about to keep your information private. Thanks for watching and I hope you’ll join me again for Sileo on Security.