Commentary Mobile Security
Open Public Wi-Fi: How To Stay Safe
One day our systems will be built to default always to secure configurations, but we're not there yet
Using open public Wi-Fi networks is dangerous business; if you're not careful, your communications are open to everyone else on the network. But there are ways to protect yourself. If you have the option, you should use an encrypted network. In the alternative, if you use an open, unencrypted network, use a virtual private network to protect your communications. Failing even that, be sure to use only HTTPS sessions.
When you look at a list of available Wi-Fi networks, like the one nearby, there are basically two types: those that are encrypted (with the lock icon) and those that are unencrypted.
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If you connect to an unencrypted network all of your traffic is open for all the world to see, unless you take other measures to encrypt it. On such a network, all users can see all other users' traffic. Worse still, other users can hijack your session and communicate with the website you were on as if they were you, or redirect your computer to a site you didn't intend to visit. These attacks, while not strictly new at the time, were made widely known by the release of Firesheep, which made it easy to do.
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