The Dangers of Unsecured Wifi Hotspots

Learn Tech Talker’s do’s and don’ts of surfing public internet networks. Plus—how to protect your identity and personal information on WiFi.

Eric Escobar
4-minute read
Episode #34

Imagine you’re mailing a letter. You put that letter in your mailbox and then the mailman picks up the letter and delivers it to the addressee. A man in the middle attack is when an unauthorized person, not employed by the post office, intercepts the letter before the mailman arrives to pick it up. This person could read the letter and even make changes to its contents before they put it back into the mailbox.

This is exactly what happens in unsecured networks (only digitally). The hacker can get in and see your passwords, messages, and any other activity as it goes over the network to the internet. As you can imagine, it could be horrible if the hacker got access to your bank accounts and email. It would be especially bad if you used the same password for everything!

See also: How to Maintain Your Privacy on the Web and How to Create and Manage Strong Passwords

Unfortunately, this type of scenario is pretty common and can cause you a huge headache down the road.

How to Prevent WiFi Crime

So what are some ways you can prevent this? Well for one, you can use a secured network that encrypts all of your data. This will make sure that your data is safe and scrambled as it travels between you and the “mailbox.”  So if a hacker were to intercept your message, they would see nothing but scrambled letters. Of course, no security is 100% safe, but this encryption will help a ton.

See Also: How to Set Up Your Home Wireless Security

Another thing to look for when you’re going wireless on an unknown network is that it says “https” on the address bar of your web browser. This “s” on the end of the “http” indicates SSL or secure socket layer, which means that your data is encrypted between your computer and the website you’re surfing. This is an extra layer of security that will help keep your data safe, and on most major web sites it is normally enabled by default.

If you are now super paranoid about surfing the internet away from home, I would look into setting up a VPN. This is a pretty advanced topic, perfect for another episode of Tech Talker. So for now, check out this link if you want to do some more research yourself. And check back next week for more about VPN!

So here are your 4 Quick and Dirty Tips for connecting to unfamiliar wireless networks:

  1. Save really important tasks such as online banking for home.

  2. Try not to connect to any “public” or “unsecured” networks. If you absolutely need access to the internet, pay a few bucks for the secure option..

  3. When on a WiFi network, look for websites that have “https” in the address bar.

  4. If you really want maximum security, use a VPN.

Hopefully you will put these tips into practice to keep your information safe. If you have any questions about internet security or just want more info, head on over to the Tech Talker Facebook page.

Until next time, I’m the Tech Talker, keeping technology simple!

Wifi sign photo from Shutterstock


About the Author

Eric Escobar

Tech Talker demystifies technology and cutting edge devices so that even the most tech illiterate can understand what's going on with their computer or gadget — and what to do when something goes wrong.