Unsecure Wi-Fi Networks Can Be Dangerous

Protect Your Personal Information From Intrusion

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Montaldo, Charles. "Unsecure Wi-Fi Networks Can Be Dangerous." ThoughtCo, Mar. 4, 2017, thoughtco.com/unsecure-wifi-networks-can-be-dangerous-972897. Montaldo, Charles. (2017, March 4). Unsecure Wi-Fi Networks Can Be Dangerous. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/unsecure-wifi-networks-can-be-dangerous-972897 Montaldo, Charles. "Unsecure Wi-Fi Networks Can Be Dangerous." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/unsecure-wifi-networks-can-be-dangerous-972897 (accessed October 24, 2017).
Computer Hacker
Beware of Unsecured WiFi. © Getty Images

Logging on to an unsecure Wi-Fi network can open up the personal information on your computer to nearby hackers and you may not know your information has been compromised until it is too late.

With thousands of Wi-Fi hot spots currently in the United States and that number growing daily, there are many that are not secure, making their users targets for those trying to steal personal and business data.

More Opportunities for Hackers

Hot spots are popping up everywhere -- airports, coffee shops, hotels, bookstores, schools and even fast-food restaurants -- and the more networks, the more opportunities for hackers.

Many of those hot spots provide secure wireless networks -- requiring a password log in -- but many of them do not, even those in high-traffic, public places, according to the FBI.

How Hackers Access Your Info

Donna Peterson, special agent from the FBI's Cyber Division, explains how hackers can use public hot spots to gain access to unsuspecting victims' computers:

"They will set up a bogus but legitimate-looking Wi-Fi network with a strong signal strategically in a known hot spot...and the hacker waits for nearby laptops to connect to it. Once connected to the bogus network, the computer -- and all of its sensitive information, including user ID, passwords, credit card numbers -- is exposed to the hacker.

The intruder can mine the computer for valuable data, direct the user to phony webpages that look like familiar ones, and record every keystroke."

How to Protect Your Computer

Agent Peterson says the best way to protect yourself from attacks from hackers is to never connect to an unknown or unsecure Wi-Fi network.

If you have to, here are some precautions you can take:

  • Make sure your laptop security is up to date, with current versions of your operating system, web browser, firewalls, and antivirus and anti-spyware software.
  • Don't conduct financial transactions or use applications like e-mail and instant messaging.
  • Change the default setting on your laptop so you have to manually select the Wi-Fi network you’re connecting to.
  • Turn off your laptop's Wi-Fi capabilities when you're not using them.

More information about protecting your computer is available on the FBI website.