Tip #20 Public WiFi: Use Sparingly and Safely

Miami Beach

Image: Vintage postcard.

It sounds like a great plan: Finish your history paper on the plane and email your paper from Miami Beach. As soon as you click “send,” you can slap on the suntan oil and vacation will begin!

You’re expecting to the pay the hotel for the privilege of using their WiFi connection. But as you’re about to connect to the hotel network, you notice a network called Free WiFi.

Don’t join that network! Even if you have to pay, it’s much safer to use the hotel’s network with your computer’s settings adjusted for using a public network.

Hooking up to a free network or hot spot, supported by an unknown source, may cause you to become a victim of a common WiFi scam. Hackers make available an Internet connection that looks legitimate. In reality, you’re connecting to their computer and they’re watching every move you make. All your traffic goes through their computer, allowing them to gather personal information like emails, usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers. They can even lodge a virus in your computer. And you won’t know a thing about it, until it’s too late.

The history paper might have been sent for free, but ultimately it will cost much more than the hotel’s WiFi connection.

When you’re tempted to join a free WiFi connection, think twice! Limit your risk when you connect to ANY public network, free or paid, by following these security tips:

  • First and foremost, do not connect to unfamiliar networks.
  • Never join a network identified as computer-to-computer.
  • Verify that your computer is not set up to automatically connect to networks.
  • Turn off file sharing while traveling.
  • Use antivirus software and keep it updated. Fordham has free antivirus protection for students, faculty and staff.
  • Install security patches.
  • Use a firewall.
  • Use your browser’s security settings.
  • Avoid opening email attachments.
  • Treat Instant Messaging suspiciously.

Fordham University’s own network is secure because it requires you to log in with your AccessIT ID and password.

By Nicole Kagan, Fordham IT News Editor

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