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Free Wi-Fi? Don’t Celebrate Just Yet

Free Wi-Fi can lead you into identity theft, loss of data or worse if you aren’t careful. Our airports, cafes, hotels etc. are peppered with free Wi-Fi connections. Most of us don’t think twice before we logon for our daily internet fix. There are no free lunches in this world and the internet is no different – by linking yourself to an open network you can potentially be setting yourself up for disaster. There are two ends of manipulation on a free network – your files could be tampered with by the person who originally setup the network with the intention of monitoring the users connecting to it, and someone else connecting to the network can also spy on you. Several pieces of activity can be tracked on an open Wi-Fi network.

Behind the scenes

An open Wi-Fi is a network that links you to a main computer and every other computer that finds its way to the network. If the owner wishes to check what you’re using their Wi-Fi connection for, all they need is a software like Wireshark or Firesheep to capture your browsing details. And these software are already present on the network long before you show up. Most sensitive data is encrypted only to the
extent of the sites that encrypt it. If you end up buying a book from an online site with an unencrypted form the likelihood is you’re handing over your bank details to a hacker without even knowing. So your bank’s site might keep the Wi-Fi spy from seeing your information, but that doesn’t mean that all other sites will. It would be a good idea to take another look at your shared files and check what you’re
making accessible to the network without realizing it – it could include your pictures, videos, documents and a whole host of other things.

As easy as ABC

Getting spyware on your laptop or pc is an easy task if the network owner knows what he’s doing. Just Watt, a Web engineer reported on his hotel’s free Wi-Fi and how it was altering each page that one would browse to ad banner space for advertisements that weren’t originally a part of the page, and potentially block an already existing advertisement on the page. Watt’s discovery also raises an interesting question – would you click on an advertisement thinking it to be part of a site like, or another credible page only to install a computer monitoring software on your system instead? There are no lengths too vast when a hacker wants access to certain data. Software such as PC Pandora 7.0 and Spector Pro 2011 are examples of software that can be installed in stealth mode on your system and you’d have to work really hard to trace them. Both software have an array of features where they can capture screen shots, record browsing activity, keystroke logs etc. And these software would continue to work long after you’ve let go of the Wi-Fi and moved on with your life.

Leave no door unopened

Some suggest VPNs as an alternative but we’re living in a world where even VPNs are being continually cracked, there’s no way a simple open Wi-Fi can leave anyone feeling secure. VPNs will provide some semblance of security, however, since they’re able to add another layer of encryption on the data. The best solution would be to invest in a cheap Wi-Fi that you can take along with you wherever you want.

AT&T AND Sprint both offer wireless cards that can come as cheap as five bucks and can last up to a month.

Author Bio

Jane Andrew is the author of computer monitoring software and keylogger technology. She provides tips, tricks and news about computer and internet security. You can also follow her on Twitter @janeandrew01 to get the latest tips about computer security.

This is a guest post by Jane Andrew. To know more about guest post rules in this blog please follow the link below.


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