Dear Remy & Team,
I was just wondering what your opinion was on the safety of public Wi-Fi (AKA Wi-fi Hot spots) Are they safe ? and are they worth the risk ? And what should I do to protect myself from the criminal element ?
Sent In By “Wi-Fi At Risk”
Are they safe ? and are they worth the risk ? And what should I do to protect myself from the criminal element ?
Remy’s Reply: Are Wi-Fi hot spots safe ? Not really. Are Wi-fi hot spots worth the risk ? Well it vastly depends on your circumstances. To determine your own safety Vs. risk benefit. I would not personally use them unless I really had to. such as re-calibrate my MapQuest or other GPS apps.
But don’t get me wrong. I’m not a student anymore and I have a great internet connection that I can easily afford. But if I were someone on the go or who could not afford the internet, has a really bad internet connection or was a student. I would use a Wi-Fi Hot Spot with extreme caution. There are quite a few freeware applications that you can use such as Hotspot Shield. Here is their home page http://www.anchorfree.com/ .Where you can look up further details on the latest software.
I also recommend having a good virus scanner and some type of Firewall beyond the built in Windows Firewall. Also avoid any use of sensitive data sources such as online banking, or even Facebook. I advise the latter as I recently found out that places like Star Bucks do Wi-Fi audits. To determine what IP’s address have accessed what sites. they are mainly looking for porn and anything that can be seen as criminal behaviour.
Often the Hot Spot owner will block porn sites, and even Torrent sites. They also can narrow their bandwidth to only deliver a very basic signal. I’ve seen it as bad as barely below 1 bar. And I’ve also seen it at 4 bars even outside the the restaurant or bar.
Danny’s Reply: Not worth the risk. I see stories on CNN all the time and I’ve known way to many people who have been hacked. So is it worth the risk ? Hell no.
Matt’s Reply: Wi-Fi Hot Spots eh? Well well well. Personally I hate them, I think they are a terrible decision, except for online gaming in places like an Airport or a Starbucks, but for general browsing, downloading, torrents, online browsing etc, etc, etc, then I’d say no, just avoid it as it’s one of the easiest ways to be hacked and have all kinds of personal data stolen.
Although, if you were to use Wi-Fi Hot Spots, then there are ways to partially protect yourself. You can equip your Windows Firewall for a starter, then install an additinal Firewall on the top of that, and even install an Anti-Virus software (we have many reviewed on here), but even then there is another way to protect yourself, and that is by using Hotspot Shield, which is a free program and reduces some of the threats, although it doesn’t make the connection completely safe.
So, to round-up in my professional opinion, you can reduce the risks of using a Wi-Fi Hot Spot by installing some of these extra programs, but the best option is to use your own Internet connection at home from your modem/router and have that added level of protection with a Security Key, and then you can install those other programs on top that I mentioned above.
Williams Reply: I have no choice. I am still a student and my apartment does not have decent internet. If you can call it !!!! My land lord holds back the good Internet for ransom from the bulk of he younger tenants.
So is it worth the risk ? Not really sure. So far so good.
Erin’s Reply: I’m like William I am still a student. I need to take advantage of all the Wi-Fi hot spots in my area. But my university does make it very clear. Via signage that it is a risky propitiation and they hold no liability if you are hacked. They also hand out fines on a regular bases to students or teachers that are caught looking and forbidden sites.
Kirbe’s Reply: Well Remy is a very high end users and he can’t take the risk with his job. I use to use my Mac book all the time at coffee shops. But since went with Windows. I would not even think of using my new Win 7 laptop at an open public Wi-fi hot spot. Their is just way to much risk.
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Till Next Friday,