FTC Warns about Public Wi-Fi Hotspot Dangers

by Larry Magid

The OnGuardOnline.gov Web site, operated by the Federal Trade Commission, Justice Department, Homeland Security,and other federal agencies, is warning people to be careful when using public Wi-Fi hot spots. The agency says users on public Wi-Fi hot spots should only log in to sites that are fully encrypted. Encrypted sites have an https at the beginning of their address and typically have a lock in the lower right corner of the browser. The government agencies say hot spots that don’t require a password are not secure and suggests you only use hot spots with WPA (not WEP) encryption. The Wi-Fi Alliance recommends that you use WPA-2 if you have the option.

The agency also offers the following advice:

•    Don’t stay permanently signed in to accounts.
When you’ve finished using an account, log out.

•   Do not use the same password on different Web sites. It could give someone who gains access to one of your accounts access to many of your accounts.

•   Many Web browsers alert users who try to visit fraudulent Web sites or download malicious programs. Pay attention to these warnings, and take the extra     minute or so to keep your browser and security software up to date.

• If you regularly access online accounts through Wi-Fi hot spots, use a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the Internet, even on unsecured networks.

“>Click here for my one-minute CBS News and CNET radio segment about the FTC report.

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