Wifi is a wireless networking technology that is used around the world. A wifi, or wireless, network uses radio waves, just like cell phones, televisions and radios do. In a wifi network, computers with wifi network cards connect wirelessly to a wireless access point or “router.” The router is connected to the Internet via a cable or DSL modem. Any user within 300 feet or so of the access point can then connect to the Internet. Wifi networks can either be open, where anyone can access them, or closed, where users need a password to access them. An area that has public wireless access is called a wireless hotspot.
Personal VPNs and What They Are Used For
The best way to protect your sensitive information is to use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN, which encrypts the data moving to and from your laptop. The encryption protects all your Internet communication from being intercepted by others in wifi hotspots. In addition, Personal VPNs can prevent hackers from connecting to your laptop and stealing your data files.
A Personal VPN secures and privatizes data across the Internet by building an encrypted “tunnel.” Data passes through this tunnel, protected from anyone who tries to intercept it. Even if the data is intercepted, it is hopelessly scrambled and useless to anyone without the key to decrypt it.
Most large companies have a company-support VPN to protect corporate communications. PRIVATE WiFiTM provides the same capability for individuals, business travelers, and small and medium-sized enterprises.
The Risks of Using Public Networks
New Document Public wifi networks – you find them at airports, coffee shops, and even at fast food restaurants. Public networks don’t have to be wireless. Hotel networks are often wired, but they are public, and the same precautions apply. You never know who else is on the network capturing your traffic. Are public networks safe? What can you do to protect yourself?
First, know the risks. There are three ways others can steal your data or compromise your privacy when you are on a public network.
The first one is old-school and low-tech (or even no-tech). Someone who wants to steal your passwords or just see what you are up to can simply look over your shoulder (it is called shoulder-surfing). There is a more advance version, though. It involves a small video camera strategically positioned to record what others are doing – sometimes from a distance of several meters. Watching the display and playing back video of the keystrokes while entering passwords can be an effective attack. In a crowded place, and with the right equipment, this is easier than you might think.
The second one is simply capturing the traffic that you are broadcasting through the air (that’s why it’s called wireless, you know) and analyzing it later for passwords, etc. Many public networks are open (all the traffic is in “plaintext” and can be read) or use shared passwords (if you all have the same password, it is more or less the same as an open network). Assume any password given to you by someone else is not secure, since you have no way of knowing who else may know it.
The third one is a little more difficult, but not much. Anyone can pretend to be a free wifi access point. It just takes a little configuration on a laptop to set up a network that others can connect to. The attacker calls it “Free Public Wifi” and then connects any victims who fall for the trick to a real public network. The victim surfs happily, but the attacker is recording everything.
What can you do to avoid being the victim?
Avoid doing sensitive work when on a public network. Do you really need to check you stocks or your bank account from the hotel or the coffee shop? Only do this when it is really necessary.
Use a VPN or a secure connection service. If you really want to be safe, use a VPN or a secure connection. With a VPN, your computer does not connect directly to the internet. Instead, it makes a completely secure (encrypted) connection to some other computer, which then connects to the internet from a non-public network.