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Travel Tip: Public Wi-Fi Security

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More and more, we’re seeing free, public Wi-Fi in our hotels, airports and restaurants. But that also leaves us wide open for scammers, so here’s what you need to know.

The biggest threat out there, of course, is a hacker stealing your personal information. We all say don’t conduct financial business over public Wi-Fi, but that’s not always easy when you’re on the road.

What you have to avoid is something called an ad-hoc network, which means it’s a connection from computer to computer, instead of computer to Wi-Fi. Security experts have found these networks in airport all around the country, and undoubtedly, you’ve seen them too, usually called Free Public Wi-Fi.

What’s happening is that a hacker has set up a system so you use the Internet from their connection, which means he gets access to whatever you’re doing online–including usernames and passwords.  It also leaves you vulnerable to malware and spyware. Even worse, that network stays on your computer, so someone else might try to connect to it as well. If your computer is set up with file sharing, that can mean trouble for them.

To prevent this, avoid any networks that says computer-to-computer. Whenever possible, use secure websites, which start with https instead of http. And whether you have a Mac or a PC, make sure the firewall is enabled to protect yourself.

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