Using Public Wi-Fi hotspot? People could steal your info

Wi-Fi networks operate on public airwaves that anyone nearby can tune into.


It’s relatively easy to capture sensitive communication at the vast majority of public hotspots—locations like cafes, restaurants, airports, hotels, and other public places. Cyber criminals can snag emails, passwords, and unencrypted instant messages, and you can hijack unsecured logins to popular websites.

Computers aren’t the only devices susceptible to eavesdropping. There’s also ran an Android app called DroidSheep. This app can be used to gain access to private accounts on popular Web services, such as Gmail, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and Facebook.

DroidSheep looks for and lists any unsecure logins to popular websites. While it doesn’t capture the passwords to those sites, it can exploit a vulnerability that allows you to open the site using another person’s current session, giving you full access to their account in the process.

Here’s how you can use a public hotspot with some degree of security:

– Every time you log in to a website, make sure that your connection is encrypted. The URL address should start with https instead of http.

– You also need to make sure that the connection stays encrypted for all of your online session. Some websites, including Facebook, will encrypt your log-in and then return you to an unsecured session—leaving you vulnerable to hijacking, as discussed earlier.

– Many sites give you the option of encrypting your entire session. You can do this with Facebook by enabling Secure Browsing in the Security settings.

– When you check your email, try to login via the Web browser and ensure that your connection is encrypted (again, look for https at the beginning of the URL). If you use an email client such as Outlook, make sure your POP3 or IMAP and SMTP accounts are configured with encryption turned on.

– Never use FTP or other services that aren’t encrypted.

– To encrypt your Web browsing and all other online activity, use a VPN, or virtual private network

– Keep in mind that private networks have similar vulnerabilities: Anyone nearby can eavesdrop on the network. Enabling WPA or WPA2 security will encrypt the Wi-Fi traffic, obscuring the actual communications, but anyone who also has that password will be able to snoop on the packets traveling over the network. This is particularly important for small businesses that don’t use the enterprise (802.1X) mode of WPA or WPA2 security that prevents user-to-user eavesdropping.