Keeping it cool at WiFi hotspots

Whether you’re waiting to board an airplane or grabbing a quick cuppa at a neighborhood café, public wireless networks are a great way for busy professionals to keep connected.

Convenient?  Yes.  Secure?  Mmm, not so much.

Unfortunately, most hotspots don’t encrypt what goes over the internet.  So if you send email, manage your calendar, use social networks, or transmit financial data while using a public network, you make it easier for hackers to lift confidential info like user names, passwords, and account numbers.

So what can busy executives do when they need to use public networks, but want to stay as safe as possible?

► When using a WiFi hotspot, only log in or send personal data to sites you know are fully encrypted.  Look for https at the beginning of the web address (the “s” is for secure) and a lock icon at the top or bottom of your browser window.  Some sites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session isn’t encrypted, you could be at risk.  So check for https and the lock icon the whole time you’re on the site, not just when you sign in.

► Don’t stay permanently signed in to accounts. When you’ve finished, make it a practice to log out.

► Don’t use the same password on different websites.  If you don’t switch it up a bit, a hacker who steals one password gains access to your entire online identity.

► If you or your employees travel a lot or spend time out visiting clients, consider a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the internet, even on unsecured networks. You can get a personal VPN account from a VPN service provider.

► If anyone on your staff uses a laptop for work, chances are they’re logging on to public networks.  Have them visit the Wifi Hotspot page at OnGuard Online for more security tips from the federal government and the tech industry.

► Share this information with clients and customers on your website or reprint it in your client newsletter.  It’s a cost-free way to tell them you care about the safety of their personal information.

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