Be Careful When Accessing Public WiFi

Safeway Internet Lounge

Places like Safeway offer patrons access to a public wifi network.

My workplace IT department recently issued this memo regarding access to public wifi systems. It is good advice that goes beyond my workplace and something you should think about. My comments to the memo appear in blue.

If you’re traveling this summer, chances are you’ll encounter a Wi-Fi hotspot (network) or two.

Wi-Fi in airports, hotels, train stations, coffee shops, and other public places can be convenient, but they’re often not secure, and can leave you at risk.

Whether you’re entertaining the kids by streaming a video on a tablet, downloading new travel apps on your smartphone or even taking your tablet poolside, there are precautions you should take to make sure your personal information is safe.

First and foremost, connect with care. If you’re online through an unsecured network, you should be aware that individuals with malicious intent may have established a Wi-Fi network with the intent to eavesdrop on your connection. This could allow them to steal your credentials, financial information, or other sensitive and personal information. It’s also possible that they could infect your system with malware. Any free Wi-Fi should be considered to be “unsecure”. Therefore, be cautious about the sites you visit and the information you release.


Here are 6 tips to remember when using Wi-Fi:

• Keep an updated machine. Having the latest security software, operating system, web browser and apps can help protect you from the malware and other threats you may encounter when using Wi-Fi.

• Don’t assume that the Wi-Fi connection is secure. Many hotspots don’t encrypt the information you send on the Wi-Fi network.

• Do not log into accounts, especially financial accounts, when using public wireless networks. Logging into my bank and other financial accounts is a big no-no, not even on my own wifi network at home. Whenever I have to do banking, Paypal or buying stuff online from Amazon or iTunes, I always log in with the Mac that is connected to my wired home network. Never WiFi.

• Do not log onto sites that don’t seem legitimate, (clues could include the URL being misspelled, or not matching the name that you were given by the place of business). It’s not uncommon for cybercriminals to set up a Wi-Fi network called “free Wi-Fi” in airports, hotels, and other public places. This is something you want to take note of and follow all of the time.

• A cellular 3G/4G connection is generally safer than a Wi-Fi connection. I have never owned a cell phone and nor do I plan to get one at anytime soon. However, I do subscribe to a 3G MiFi service from one of the local cell provider. I can access my own hotspot with a variety of devices. Still yet, I don’t do online banking or other financial transactions with it.

• Consider turning off features on your computer or mobile devices that allow you to automatically connect to Wi-Fi.

The following are public WiFi spots in Honolulu that I trust and use. As I have said though, I don’t do any banking or financial transactions on these.

McDonalds – all McDonalds restaurants in Hawaii have free public WiFi

Starbucks – I have used these on occasion, but frankly I am not a coffee drinker.

Barnes & Noble – I have used this on occasion, Ala Moana Center location.

Safeway Supermarkets –  Some of the newer stores in Hawaii have WiFi.

Apple Store – All 3 stores in Honolulu have WiFi as I would assume they are nationwide.

Hawaii State Legislature – State Capitol Building, Downtown Honolulu

Hawaii State Public Library System – all of the State’s public libraries have free WiFi for patron use. Must have a library card in order to access.

There are more public wifi hotspots through Hawaii at various hotels, small businesses and other public places such as parks.

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