My sister has a condo, and she provides Wi-Fi for the renters. A neighboring condo owner wants to know whether he can have access to her Wi-Fi for his renters. What are the risks of providing open access to her Wi-Fi?
— Mary Q., via email
You know, Mary, we can understand why your sister’s neighbor would want access. It seems that over the past decade Wi-Fi has moved up a stage or two on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
But while we can understand the value it offers residents, too much unfettered openness can put users at risk.
Admittedly, Medford may not be a hotbed of cyberpunks, but an unsecured Wi-Fi router can leave users’ sensitive information vulnerable to hackers , who could perform what’s called a “man-in-the-middle” attack. According to Wikipedia, the attack works when a hacker intercepts and monitors messages to uncover passwords and other personal information while a user surfs unknowingly.
We reached out to CenturyLink with your query, and although they couldn’t comment on risks of leaving the network unsecure, they did have some handy tips to keep your information safe next time you use a public hotspot.
1) Don’t assume a Wi-Fi hotspot is secure. Most Wi-Fi hotspots don’t encrypt the information you send over the Internet and are not secure.
2) Always make sure that your PC, Mac or tablet system software is up to date.
3) Make sure your antivirus software is automatically updated and running regular scans on all of your operating systems to protect against new threats that could lead to identity fraud.
4) Scan hard disks to find and remove unauthorized remote controls and back up data in real time.
5) Use a virtual private network. VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the Internet, even on unsecured links. Companies create VPNs to provide secure, remote access for their employees.
6) When using a hotspot, it’s best to send information only to websites that are fully encrypted. To determine whether a website is encrypted, look for “https” at the beginning of the web address (the “s” is for secure).
7) Don’t stay permanently signed in to accounts. When you’ve finished using an account, log out.