Video and Media

Public Wi-Fi Networks (Video)

Wi-Fi hotspots — like the ones in coffee shops, airports, and hotels — are convenient, but they often aren’t secure. Use these tips to help protect your personal information.

Many hotels…

… coffee shops…

… airports and other places offer free Wi-Fi hotspots. They’re convenient. Unfortunately, they often aren’t secure.

That could make it easy for someone else to access your online accounts or steal your personal information. So, what can you do to reduce your risk?

Encryption is the key to keeping your information secure online. When information is encrypted…

… it’s scrambled into a code so others can’t get it.

How can you be sure…

… your information is encrypted?

Two ways: one, use a secure network to access the internet.

Don’t assume that a public Wi-Fi network uses encryption. In fact, most don’t. You can only be sure that a network uses effective encryption if it asks you to provide a WPA or WPA2 password.

If you aren’t sure, it’s best to assume the network is not secure.

The second way to protect your information is to send it through a secure website.

A secure site will encrypt your information—even if the network doesn’t.

If the web address starts with “https,” then your information is encrypted before it’s sent. The “s” stands for “secure.” Look for the “https” on every page you visit, not just when you log in.

If you use an unsecured Wi-Fi network to login to an unencrypted website.

.. strangers using that network can hijack your account and steal your private documents, contacts, family photos--

Even your user name and password. If that happens, an imposter could use your e-mail.

.. or social networking account to pretend to be you and scam people you care about.

Or a hacker could use your password from one website to try to login to…

… a different account and access your personal or financial information.

Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself when you use a public Wi-Fi hotspot:

- Only log in or enter personal information on secure sites that use encryption. Again, look for a web address that begins with “https”

Don’t use the same user name and password for different sites. It could give someone who gains access to one of your accounts access to many of your accounts.

Never email financial information…

… including credit card, Social Security, and checking account numbers, even if the network and website are secure.

Don’t stay permanently signed in to accounts.

When you’ve finished using a site, log out.

The bottom line? SecureWi-Fi hotspots require a password. Secure websites start with https.

And remember: it’s easy to find trusted information about computer security. Just visit OnGuardOnline.gov, the federal government’s site to help you be safe, secure and responsible online.