Wi-Fi Hotspots Expose Travelers to Hackers: How to Defend Yourself

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Anywhere in the world, public Wi-Fi could be a trap. Public Wi-Fi hotspots at hotels, airports, and coffee shops are less safe than they appear, especially ones that are "naked," or not protected with a hard-to-crack password.

Travelers could step into big trouble when they innocently log on to the internet. Hackers can set up fake public networks to worm into the typical traveler's electronics. These fake networks often have tempting names like "Free Public Wi-Fi." They allow you to surf the web just as easily as the official ones.

Once you've logged on, hackers can copy your data, install viruses, or read your e-mail. With the information stored in your e-mail or web browser, a hacker can often gain access to your financial data.

The hackers only need to have amateur skills and use widely available software and a mobile device, to do their work. They may only stalk an area briefly for a few hours, evading detection by authorities.

Try the following strategies, to keep a step ahead of the cyber-criminals:

Use Official Networks
In a public setting like a hotel lobby or a coffee shop, make sure you know the exact name of the official network (such as 'St Pancras Wi-Fi') before you log on to it. When in doubt, ask a staff person.

Avoid Entering Bank Account Info on Public Networks
Never enter in your credit card data into a website or check your bank account online while using a public network.

Install Protection Software
If you are a frequent traveler who uses public networks often, consider buying software called a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which delivers a safe connection at an affordable price. Major sellers include witopia.net and publicvpn.com.

Admittedly, the above tips won't keep your laptop as impregnable as Fort Knox. But – like using a steering wheel lock in your car – these practices will encourage criminals to pick on someone else who makes for an easier target.

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