BBB urges caution on wi-fi networks


Protecting your identity is important, and many consumers don’t realize the dangers that come with using a Wi-Fi connection that is not their own.

According to a recent poll conducted by Wakefield Research and Wi-Fi Alliance, 32 percent of respondents said they have tried to get on a Wi-Fi network that was not their own, a startling 18 percent more than a December 2008 poll.

The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB), along with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), urges consumers to think ahead before surfing the Web on a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Wi-Fi hotpots like coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels and universities are all breeding grounds for hackers. According to the FTC, new hacking tools — which are available for free online — make hacking easy, even for users with limited technical know-how.

In order to confirm that an Internet connection is secure, the BBB advises consumers to follow the FTC’s top Wi-Fi tips:

• Make sure the connection is protected by a unique password. If a Wi-Fi hotspot doesn’t ask for a password, the Internet connection is not secure.

• Transmitted information should be encrypted. When sending personal information like addresses, credit card numbers and Social Security numbers over the Internet, make sure the website is fully encrypted and the network is secure. Look for https (the “s” stands for secure) at the beginning of the URL address to confirm its security.

• Don’t stay permanently logged in to wireless hotspots. Never leave your Internet connection running while your computer is unattended and make sure to log off after every use.

• Change your passwords frequently. When creating new accounts, make sure you use different passwords. Do not use the same password for different sites. If one password is hacked, the chances of other accounts being hacked becomes greater with repeated passwords.

For more advice on security scams, visit www.bbb.org or to learn more about protecting your privacy online and what to do if your information is compromised, visit www.OnGuardOnline.gov and http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/02/wireless.shtm.

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