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Tech-Friendly: Public Wi-Fi hotspot security basics

October 9, 2013

By Paul Gorski

Last week, I wrote about home Wi-Fi security (see link at end of article), so thought I’d wrap up my Wi-Fi security discussion by warning you not to use public Wi-Fi hotspots for sensitive Internet transactions.

Some public Wi-Fi hotspots, or connection points, are secure, but many are not. You’ll find public Wi-Fi hotspots in public buildings, restaurants, bars and more. Assume most public Wi-Fi hotspots are not secure. Better safe than sorry.

Before you use public Wi-Fi, make sure your computer OS, browser and security software packages are up-to-date. Enable your computer’s security firewall.

Disable the “sharing” of files and folders on your computer. I would also disable the saving of passwords in your browser.

Avoid performing banking, stock trading or other sensitive financial transactions while using public Wi-Fi. Wait until you know you are using a secure connection.

Even when checking e-mail via a browser, try to use a secure browser connection. Many e-mail services allow you to connect via “http” or “https” (secure). Choose the “https” secure method, when possible, for any e-mail or data-sharing connection.

I can’t say strongly enough: avoid conducting sensitive financial transactions while using public Wi-Fi and use secure browser connections, “https,” whenever possible.

My original Wi-Fi security article, “Tech-Friendly: Home Wi-Fi security — basics plus a bit more,” is at http://rockrivertimes.com/2013/10/02/tech-friendly-home-wi-fi-security-%E2%80%94-basics-plus-a-bit-more/. You will find additional links to other computer security articles at the end of that column.

Paul Gorski (www.paulgorski.com) has been a technology manager nearly 20 years, specializing in workflow solutions for printing, publishing and advertising computer users. Originally destined to be a chemist, his interest in computers began in college when he wrote a program to analyze data from lab instruments he hard-wired to the back of an Apple IIe.

From the Oct. 9-15, 2013, issue

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