You're sitting there. Suddenly, your phone, tablet or computer discovers a way to connect to the Internet. You have work to do. You have things to check online. You don't want to use your data plan. Without thinking, you click OK and you're online in a split second.
What could go wrong?
1. In the long run, it's not really free
From libraries, coffee shops, airports and hotels, there are literally tens of thousands of free places to jump online. One of our most favorite resources at Komando.com is the Free Wi-Fi Inspector.
Wi-Fi Inspector has tools like Radar that come in handy to find hotspots. Radar has the look and feel of an airplane's dashboard controls, specifically a radar screen that highlights which wireless networks are in your area, and which ones are closest to you.
Wi-Fi Inspector goes a step further in telling you which Wi-Fi connections are nearby and strong, with sound. Locate Mode works like a Geiger counter.
You have to remember that free Wi-Fi often comes at a price. You never know who else is on the network. You don't know who is logging every single thing you do.
A business associate was traveling and hopped on the hotel's network. Suddenly, her laptop's hard drive illuminated and started spinning. She logged off as quickly as she could. Odds are, someone was copying her hard drive's contents. That's frightening!
2. Throw caution to the wind
If it's easy for you to get into your neighbor's Wi-Fi network, imagine how easy it is for everyone else. You have no way of knowing who is lurking in their network. You don't know if they have complete access to every file on your system. Just assume they do.
That's why we always recommend that you turn off file sharing. When it's turned on, your files are out there in the open. Next time you are using free Wi-Fi, browse the network connections. You are bound to see other people's files, music and movies stored on their tablet, phone or computer.
Finally, there is no way of knowing what nasty infection or virus that's just waiting to infect your system. You hop on and whammo, you got it too!