WiFi is an amazing service, it helps us to be productive when we’re away from the office or home, keeps boredom at bay while we’re waiting for our food, the doctor or visiting the relatives. Freely available in the public sector (Starbucks, McDonalds & Taco Bell) WiFi is a blessing and also a curse.
WiFi uses radio waves, and radio waves are anything but direct. They broadcast, and this means that anyone within range can see everything you’re doing online, if they have the right software.
Which also means that, without protection, anyone who wants to can see:
- Every site you visit
- Every bit of text you send out
- Your login information for various sites
Hopefully your WiFi router at home is password protected and encrypted, if not take a few minutes and enable it. What’s The Best Way To Encrypt Your Wi-Fi? Each time you leave home your information becomes vulnerable once you connect to someone else’s network.
These were the available WiFi connections at my hotel the other night, Since I was at a Hampton Inn I knew the WiFi network I needed was either hhonors or attwifi and both connections required a password before I could connect to them. See the ngHub_319435NJ0260C connection? This connection is wide open, now it could be someone’s phone, a router that they brought with them or possibly someone hoping that I connect so they can skim my information, you never know.
Once connected a “Set Network Location” dialog box should be displayed, select “Public Network“. This will turn off your computer’s local file sharing, and block most network traffic.
Also verify that your Windows firewall is enabled for “Public Networks”. This setting is under “Control Panel” then “Firewall” set this to ON.
Now you have a basic level of protection but consider doing more. For example my company requires us to connect to our corporate servers through a “VPN” (Virtual Private Network) when we’re on the road. This tricks the internet into thinking that I’m inside our corporate building and not sitting at a McDonalds 800 miles away. In addition all network traffic is encrypted.
You can utilize your own VPN when surfing the net in public and protect yourself even more.
Consider a paid service such as “Private Internet Access“. This encrypts your connection and provides you with an anonymous IP to protect your privacy. If you check on “Lifehacker” you’ll find a post on the “Five Best VPN Service Providers“. Do yourself a favor and spend a few bucks for some piece of mind. There’s nothing less productive than wasting your time trying to correct an information breach.
While on the subject of hotel provided WiFi I came across this article on “Hotel Chatter” titled “5 Excuses Hotels Have Given About Why They Still Charge for WiFi“
Here’a synopsis of the article;
1. “It’s expensive to build a WiFi network and we need to make up for that cost somewhere.” Here’s an infographic breakdown “LINK“
2. “Our building is a historic building and it’s hard to outfit the hotel with WiFi.” I’d beg to differ, the house I live in has cement walls and everyone and everything is connected wirelessly. In addition I spend 150+ night a year in hotels and the only historic location I recall ever staying at was in Lexington, VA “LINK“
3. “There are privacy and safety concerns with having free WiFi.” It’s a valid concern but I can assure you that I’ll handle my own computer security.
4. “It’s a revenue stream and we’d be stupid not to tap into it.” Can’t really argue there.
5. “If you’re paying $400 a night for a room, what’s another $15 or $20?” First of all I’d never get a $400.0 a night room through finance, second that’s a terrible attitude when it comes to your customers.
One thing that I’ve learned is that the middle of the road hotels (Hampton Inn, Fairfiled Inn) provide free WiFi but some Mariott Courtyards & Hilton’s will charge you for WiFi unless you are a member of their rewards program.
The take-away, think before you connect to a WiFi network other than your own.
Spend some time checking out the blogs around http://www.hypesouthflorida.com/ I’m sure there’ll be something you’ll like……