Tuesday, January 12, 2016 - Almanac Vol. 62, No. 18
Mobile Devices and Public Wi-Fi - Stick to Window Shopping
We now live in the age of the smartphone, amid ubiquitous public Wi-Fi. As with many computing technologies, the more accessible things are, the more vulnerable they are to malicious attacks. Does this mean that you shouldn’t use the free Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop while you enjoy your latte? No. But there are some key things to keep in mind when using public Wi-Fi on your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
When using a public Wi-Fi network, you will want to be aware of "snooping." This means someone with malicious intent might be viewing information sent to or from your device on the Wi-Fi network. So be sure to avoid activities such as mobile banking and online purchases, which can involve entering passwords and personal information, such as credit card numbers, addresses, etc. Whenever possible, use encrypted web services (e.g., HTTPS over HTTP) when web browsing.
In addition to personal information, mobile malware is becoming more prevalent. An unsecured Wi-Fi network may make you more vulnerable to that type of attack by allowing anyone onto the network, regardless of whether their device is infected or malicious. To help limit this risk, try to opt for public Wi-Fi networks that are protected or encrypted in some fashion, such as with a password or code.
Unfortunately, when using a public hotspot, there is little guarantee that it is secure and you are safe. Keep this in mind when connecting, and limit your online activities to help lower your risk.