Wi-Fi network access at airports, coffee shops and other locations has made accessing the Web a snap for laptop computer users everywhere.
But not all Wi-Fi is equal. Hackers looking to steal personal information and files lurk as much in the wireless realm as they do through dial-up and broadband landlines.
Hackers can establish fake Wi-Fi connections in a number of venues. When searching for connections, a consumer may encounter a network connection available simply named “Free Wi-Fi.” This network may not be the real thing, but instead may be an ad-hoc network used by hackers hunting for credit card information, Social Security numbers and account passwords.
To avoid connecting to a network used by hackers, the Better Business Bureau suggests the following steps to keep your laptop safe:
• Always stay on guard for an unfamiliar network. Hackers can change their network’s name to one used by a legitimate Internet connection.
• Set up your laptop so that it does not automatically connect to nonpreferred networks. Otherwise, your computer could automatically connect to the hacker’s network without your knowledge.
• Turn off file sharing when you’re traveling to prevent hackers from stealing entire documents, files and e-mails from your computer.
• Find out if your employer has a Virtual Private Network (VPN), or create a VPN for your business. A VPN keeps users’ communications as secure as if they were sitting at a desk in the building.