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Keep Out Those Wi-Fi Hackers

Don't fall prey to digital intruders

Wi-Fi Scams  How to keep Wi-Fi hackers from stealing your data


Before you connect to public internet, be aware of the risks and what you need to do to keep your information safe.

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.

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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.

Take Action: Visit Fraud Watch Network's Watch Your Wi-Fi for more cyber security info

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.

Rachel Z. Arndt is a writer in Chicago who has written for Popular MechanicsFast Company and other publications.


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