Wi-Fi lets you connect your devices to the web without being physically plugged in. Unfortunately, it also makes you vulnerable to scams and fraud. If you're unlucky, you might end up like Louise Milan, who was 68 when her home in Evansville, Ind., was entered by a SWAT team after a neighbor used her Wi-Fi network to send death threats to local police. Or you might end up a victim of identity theft.
While no network is completely hacker-proof, you can take steps to minimize risk.
Don't get burned by hot spots
On public Wi-Fi, you're operating in an open network in which hackers can access your device, watch where you surf and see what you type — passwords included. So try not to log in to sites that require a password, and don't enter credit card numbers. To protect your data, turn off file sharing in your device settings.
Safe at home?
Most home routers come with encryption and password protection built in. Make sure these features are turned on. If you can't figure out whether you are safe, contact your internet service provider or the router company's website.
Also, check the router's encryption setting. If it is set for WEP, you need to reset it to the more secure WPA2. If your computer or router can't be set for WPA2 encryption, it's time for an upgrade.
Look before you join
Many devices are preset to join networks automatically. This can save you on data fees, but you could end up unknowingly connected to an unsecure network. Turn on the option to have the device ask you before joining. Last advice: Turn off your computer and your router when they're not in use. Hackers can't breach a machine that's off the grid.
Also of Interest
- The dangers of using public Wi-Fi
- How to stay safe while shopping online
- Are you an easy mark?
- Get Everyday Tech Tips at AARP's Online Technology Fair, 6/8
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