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How to stay safe on public Wi-Fi

How to stay safe on public Wi-Fi
© Antonio Guillem | Dreamstime

If you've been following Komando.com, listening to The Kim Komando Show and subscribing to Kim's popular podcasts, then you know all about the major risks you're taking each time you go online. Those risks can even be greater when you're accessing the Internet using public Wi-Fi.

Crooks use public Wi-Fi to spy on unsuspecting users who join the network. Or, sometimes they even create "honeypot" networks, which are fake networks designed to steal your information. Still, even though the risks are so high, many people use public Wi-Fi networks to check their bank accounts, purchase merchandise and complete other tasks that they'd prefer were private.

If you're not careful, cybercriminals can walk away with your name, address, social security number, email address, and even your username and password. That's why you need to follow these three steps to protect yourself.

1. Be cautious

Public Wi-Fi is open to everyone, which makes it a prime target for hackers. And every device is susceptible, no matter if it's your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

The scariest part about online security threats these days is that your device could be infected without any signs. And the frightening thing is that the issue is only now being discovered because the data has appeared on the Dark Web.

What makes things difficult is that there are several types of threats lurking behind links and tucked into programs that seem legitimate otherwise. And, to make things worse, malware isn't limited to just your desktop computer and laptop anymore. Viruses are now spreading to phones and tablets.

For that reason, you need an offensive strategy whenever you join a public network. Here are some things you should be skeptical of:

  • The network itself: Just because a public Wi-Fi network pops up and asks if you want to join, doesn't mean it's legitimate. If you're at a coffee shop, hotel, or other place of business, ask an employee for the specific name of their Wi-Fi network. Scammers will sometimes create networks called "Coffee Shop" or "Hotel Guest" to make you believe you're connecting to the real thing when, actually, you're not.
  • Links: Scammers are skilled at making links seem enticing so you'll fall for their trick, but there are some signs that should make you think twice before you click. First, if something makes an outrageous claim or sounds too good to be true, it's probably not legitimate. Second, if you're prompted to download something, you probably should avoid it. Here's a little trick. To see what's hiding behind a hyperlink, see what shows up in the bottom left-hand corner of your screen when you hover your mouse over it.
Next page: Keep reading for more tips on public Wi-Fi safety.
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