Michael Giuffrida: Are Public Wireless Networks Truly Safe?

Being able to connect to the internet just about anywhere nowadays is both a blessing and curse. The blessing? You can remain connected and thus stay productive throughout the day. The curse? The information you send or receive in email is vulnerable to hackers. In other words, a public wireless network is a double-edged sword, according to business expert Michael Giuffrida.

It’s no secret that hackers like to snoop on public wireless networks. And it’s so easy to do because not much software and hardware is needed for even an amateur hacker to launch an attack. All a hacker has to do is get in between the public wireless network and you and thus see your data as it passes by. The hacker can do this by creating his or her own wireless connection and making it look legitimate.

For instance, let’s say you are at your local pizza parlor called Dave’s Pizza and the parlor offers a wireless network called “Pizza Wifi.” However, you also see a network called “Dave’s Wifi” — the network set up by a hacker. You log in to “Dave’s Wifi,” and it’s the worst move you could have made. Unbeknownst to you, all of your important data passes to the hacker, who can not only see it but also capture every bit of it.

So, how can you safeguard your information from hackers? First, make sure that you connect to businesses’ wireless networks over virtual private networks, or VPNs. VPNs are technology setups that protect customers’ data from hackers by essentially serving as customers’ private data highways.

If you can’t access a VPN, an alternative is to use your cell phone as a handy hotspot that will allow you to access your own wireless network from your laptop. Yes, you will have to use your cell phone data to make this happen, but boosting your phone’s data plan beats losing your private data, especially if you’re a small business owner.

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