The Dangers of “FREE” and low-cost WiFi connections

Computer Hacker
Computer Hacker

My friends, I don’t mean to be a fear monger.  But recent findings and personal observations have reaveled to me the real dangers of “FREE,” “Open,” and low-cost WiFi connections when we travel or shop outside of our protected WiFi network at home.

Let’s start with our home network – your WiFi router or modem does require you to enter a login password when you connect correct?  You probably only need to do this once whenever you buy a new computer or mobile device.  You may be aware of it when a friend or the grand children come over and want to connect to your WiFi network.  It’s CRITICAL that you have a protected network at home.

Next ,let’s go to our own computer or mobile device and make sure that our antivirus and firewall is “on” and up-to-date.  All desktop and laptop computers have antivirus software available to them for FREE or low-cost and all operating systems (Windows and Mac) come with firewalls.  Some mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) have antivirus software, but probably not firewalls.

Be careful what devices, hard drives, folders, files and apps you “share.”  Make sure that IF you share, you require a username and password to share.  Also it is CRITICAL that your computer and mobile devices have passwords or “PINS” each time you start them or wake them from sleep.  

Let’s envision a little scenario…  I’m in my favorite bookstore and look at my settings to see if they have an “open” or “free” WiFi connection.  I find an open network called “(name of bookstore) FREE WiFi” and connect to that because it has a great signal, is FREE, and doesn’t require a password. It is obviously connected to the bookstore I’m in because it has the name of the store in the name of the network.  

Within seconds the guy a few tables over in the bookstores cafe uses his computer (which is actual providing the bogus FREE WiFi network with the name of the store) to look into any part of my computer which is “shared” without a username or password.  He then can then retrieve names, passwords, files, folders and on-and-on from my computer.

I’m not a hacker or even a real techie, but I can set up a bogus WiFi network (often called a “Hot Spot”) with a small change to the name of the store’s network using my smartphone, tablet or computer in less than one minute.

Please don’t come to me for help if you don’t have antivirus software protection on your device “because it costs money” when you think nothing of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on your new computer or device.  Please don’t ask for help when you didn’t take 30 seconds to password protect your device, shared folders, or hard drive because “I didn’t know how to, or it takes too long to set-up.” Pay for the guys and gals at Best Buy Geek Squad (or similar service) to set it up for you.

Finally be really really REALLY careful when you see a pop up message on your device from what APPEARS to be Microsoft, Apple, or the name of your internet service provider (Comcast, Charter, etc.) or the bank you deal with telling you that your device has been hacked and you need to call the 800# provided and they will fix the problem (for a small fee) when you provide them with a credit card number.  100 times our of 100 this is bogus.  All they want is your credit card number or (God forbid) your Social Security number.   But, you say, “It looks real – it’s got the Microsoft (or other company) logo on it.”    Basically it is the same scam as the book store scenario above, but it’s coming from the teenager a few houses down from you, or that unmarked van down the street.

Technology is fun, informational and practical.  It just requires safe devices and practices.  You would’t go boating without a life preserver would you?

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