15 years of consulting in niche markets

How to protect your data when on a public Wi-Fi

It's very convenient to bank, shop and post photos and status updates online. It means you don't have to physically go to the bank, the store or travel long distances to catch up with family and friends who might be scattered around the country. The drawback to doing these and other things online is that your information is traveling through the internet. It isn't a straight shot between you and the site you're using, either.


Security risks of  using a public Wi Fi

While you are browsing online your data can bounce through servers around the country or even around the world. That gives hackers a lot of opportunities to steal your information. If they can grab it in transit, they can learn your passwords, details about you they shouldn't know, or even pretend to be you to trick your bank or other secure sites.

That's especially true if you're using public Wi-Fi. Hackers on the same network have plenty of tools to snoop on what you're doing.

Aside from hackers, the government and your internet service provider can also monitor your connection to see where you go, and, if they want, what you do. If you aren't a fan of that, and few people are, there is a way you can keep these parties out of your business.



What securities are already in place?

Any finance, medical or shopping site that's even a little security conscious is going to provide you with an encrypted connection. The encryption scrambles your traffic so hackers can't get your passwords or other information. You can tell encryption is running on a site when the web address in your browser starts with "https://".

Aside from the types of sites we've already mentioned, Facebook, Google and other major sites have adopted always-on encryption as well. However, not every site you encounter will and some only provide partial encryption. That means they might not encrypt the connection until you log in, which gives hackers a possible opening to steal your password. Or they only encrypt your login information and leave things like email messages exposed to traffic snoops.

Fortunately, more sites are moving to full-time encryption. Some news sites are turning it on, with the largest one so far being "The Washington Post."

Of course, you don't have to wait for that level of security. You can fully encrypt your connection today.


How to protect your connection?  - VPN Basics

To encrypt your connection, you can use a virtual private network (VPN). In the business world, VPNs let employees working remotely create an encrypted connection with the company network so they can work safely, as shown in this handy diagram on the right.

Windows and Macs both have VPN features built in just for this purpose. However, for the average home user or a traveller, these aren't very helpful because you need something to connect to. That's where a third-party VPN service comes in handy.

A VPN service lets you create an encrypted connection with one of its servers and you use that server to browse the internet. The connection is encrypted through the server, so the VPN can't see your traffic either. OK, it's a bit more complicated than that behind the scenes, but that's the result.

To start, you need to choose a program or service to use. There are dozens that offer a mix of security features, privacy options, server locations and other considerations.

For PCs, Macs and Android gadgets, CyberGhost is a popular free option that has strong encryption, unlimited bandwidth and doesn't store logs. If you go for a paid plan, there's an Apple app as well, plus you get access to more servers around the world.

Hotspot Shield VPN is a good free app for Apple and Android gadgets that has more than 300 million downloads. You get to choose your location, and it also blocks viruses and phishing attempts before they get to your gadget.


More things to know

A VPN is just about the connection between you and a website. If you choose to store personal information on a website, it can still be lost in a data breach. So, as always, be careful what sites you choose to trust with your information.

While a VPN encrypts your connection between you and the VPN server, the connection between the VPN server and the site you're visiting isn't necessarily going to be secure. While the odds of a hacker breaking in at that point are minimal, it's still possible.

Be sure to check your browser's address bar to make sure you see the "https://" before sending any sensitive information to a website. If a site doesn't offer an encrypted connection for sensitive information, then you probably don't want to be using it, VPN or not.


Source: Kim Komando, 2017.


Wednesday Aug 23, 2017