More and more retailers and public buildings are offering free WiFi to their clients and customers. And while it is convenient, many would-be users are hesitant to take advantage of this free service. The reason for their hesitancy is the fear that their personal and financial information could be hacked. Yet anyone can enjoy the use of free WiFi if they understand a few things about how WiFi security works.
1. Ask whether the free WiFi is encrypted. Encrypted networks offer increased security. Yet all encrypted networks are not the same. WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) encryption is an older protocol that is easily broken and offers only minimal protection. WPA (WiFi Protected Access) encryption offers more protection. Before you use login to free WiFi, be aware of which type of encryption the network provider uses.
2. Websites that begin with https: provide end-to-end encryption. End-to-end encryption means that your browser encrypts communications from your computer to the https website, and the website encrypts communications back to you. All online banking websites use end-to-end encryption, as do most legitimate online retailers.
Another key factor to safely using free WiFi is regularly employ security software that scans and removes viruses and spyware.
Using free WiFi on pubic computers, such as those found in libraries and colleges require an additional set of cautions. Public computers should only be used for casual surfing and not for personal financial transactions with your bank or credit cards.
Today, free WiFi is conveniently located at many retailers such as Starbucks and McDonalds, and bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders. Free WiFi allows you to multi-task on the fly and can be completely safe, provided you use the necessary precautions.