Free WiFi Is Great…Isn’t It?

Content provided by our partner Tom Bull, Two River Computer ~

Free is me! I hear this a lot. Not the best practice when it comes to wifi and your computer.        

We get this a lot in our computer repair shop…

Valued Customer: ”my email was hacked” or “my credit card got hacked”

Technician: “how do you know?”

Valued Customer: ”my email is sending out spam” or “I got a call from my credit card company!”

Technician: “have you been traveling”

Valued Customer: ”yes”

Technician: “did you use free wifi”

Valued Customer: ”yes”

Technician: “uh-oh”

I’m using these illustrations to get my point across. Free wifi, like the ones in coffee shops, airports, hotels, etc. are ripe for bad guys to poach your login information as you enter you email address, bank or shopping account. They lurk on the same wifi as you and try to gain access to your computer. If they are successful, they can install a keylogger program that will record your movements, including the login information to critical sites you go to. Not cool.

“But what about the fancy hotel I’m staying in? That wifi is only for paying customers and it requires a password”.

If I was a bad guy and wanted to try to steal info from high-income earners, I would check into an expensive hotel and hang out in the lobby, bar or even just in my room. I would do a widespread attack and try to see if I could get in and grab any juicy stuff.

When traveling abroad, free wifi becomes important because of the restrictions and cost of your US carriers phone/text/internet service when traveling outside of North America. Many have decided to not call or text and use apps that will use data instead, hence the use of the free wifi. “I’ll just hop on the free wifi in the coffee shop and do a quick face time back home”. I get it. I might even do it. I just won’t stay on for long and hop right off. The fact is, bad guys could be lurking here too and actually set up a wifi router and call it “Free Coffee Shop WiFi”. You log in and they grab your stuff. Even in your fancy hotel, the bad guys could be broadcasting a stronger wifi network with the same name as the hotel and you jump on that. Well, guess what? It’s not the hotel, it’s the bad guy and he’s stealing your stuff!

So what can you do to be safe? You have a couple of options:
1. Don’t do it
2. Don’t do it
3. Use your cell phone (not connected to free wifi, just cell data) and it’s built-in wifi hotspot
feature and connect your laptop to that
4. Use your cell phone and NEVER connect to wifi
5. Use a VPN. Once connected to a (gulp) free wifi network, you would launch a program called a
VPN. That will allow you to surf safely away from prying eyes. Follow this link to our website to
get a list –
6. Use a travel router, which will convert a wired connection you get in the hotel room into wifi

Remember what Dad used to say. “There’s no such thing as free wifi”. Something like that.       

120 Fair Haven Road    Fair Haven, NJ 07704    (732) 747-0020

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