How safe are ‘free, Wi-Fi or hotspots?

As many businesses from coffeehouses to hotels and airports now offer free public Internet connections, or Wi-Fi hotspots.

But how safe is it to go online at hotspot?

Hackers set up fake hotspots

Did you know you’re actually connecting into a computer network with strangers? And a hacker can get at personal information that you provide, or even trick you into connecting to a fake hotspot.

Consumer Reports suggest that before logging on to public Wi-Fi, be sure to confirm the name of the wireless network connection.

Look for “https” in address bar

To be safe, don’t send personal information like a credit-card number or bank account login password unless you see the letters “https” in the address bar and not simply “http.” The “s” means the data leaving your computer is sent securely.

But your best protection when you’re connected to a public hotspot is just not to send any personal information at all.

Another important step to take to keep your information secure at public hotspots. You should disable your laptop’s file and printer sharing features. This will prevent people on the wireless network from gaining access to your personal documents. Check your computer’s Help menu to find out how to do this.

The Bottom Line

Confused by file sharing? The simplest thing is to use free Wi-Fi hotspots for basic web surfing only.

Leave the bank account login to your home computer, so you stay safe and don’t waste your money.

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