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Public Wi-Fi Hotspots – The Risks

Keeping things up to date on a busy business website or social networking site is essential to stay ahead of the competition, but it can be very time consuming. Many people work around the problem by writing updates during their downtime, such as when they are commuting or waiting for lunch orders. Using public Wi-Fi hotspots can be risky, however, and many people are quite unaware of how vulnerable their data is – or how to protect it.

17% of people now connect to the internet through free Wi-Fi hotspots every day. 13% of all users do so for business reasons and a significant number of others make financial transactions; therefore, there are rich pickings available for hackers and identity thieves. Despite the risk this creates, 46% of public Wi-Fi users do not realize that there is anything they can do to protect their data, even if they do realize that it might be stolen.

There are some simple steps that can make a big difference. The first is to encrypt data. This is easy to do and there are a number of different packages to choose from, depending on the operating system and the user’s level of expertise. Unless there is reason to be concerned about being singled out by a business rival, it does not usually matter if the encryption used is fairly lightweight – it only needs to be stronger than that of other people working in the same area. Most casual hackers will not pick protected targets when there are easy ones.

The second thing to do is to watch out for suspicious activity. If at all possible, avoid making financial transactions or transmitting really sensitive data from public places. Those who use web-based email should be aware that this includes data created as they are writing, not just when they send a message. When in safe locations, it is a good idea to check things such as passwords and financial accounts regularly to ensure that nothing untoward has happened.

Businesses face an extra risk from hackers, which is vandalism. This means that if there is reason to suspect a security breach, it is best to change website and social media settings straight away. Given how much money can ride on reputation, it is not worth taking any chances with potential impersonators. Finally, people who worry that they have been hacked can contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for advice. With a sensible approach, it is possible to stay safe and enjoy the freedom of access from anywhere.

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