Before You Connect With Public Wifi Consider This

One of the great conveniences in the digital age that we're living in is the opportunity to connect to the internet at public establishments.

More and more business owners are providing a free wifi connection to their customers.

With that in mind, computer security expert Bill Haisch agreed to simulate a situation for WOWT6 News that we all unknowingly could experience with public wifi.

We met at Bruegger's Bagels near 40th and Dodge in Omaha, and rather than attack their pubic wifi, Haisch set up his own router and gave me a computer to connect to the internet.

With a simple $100 program on his laptop, Haisch intercepted my signal and was able to capture snapshots of all my actions on the computer.

The key in this case was the fact it was an unsecured wifi network. No password was needed for access, which is a common situation with public wifi offerings.

"I'm was able to put myself between your computer and the internet," Haisch explained. "Then that way I could view anything, and I can also change any data, and grab any user names or passwords that come across the line."

And most wifi signals are strong enough to allow a hacker access even from the parking lot.

"If you didn't enter a password to gain access to the network, then you're definitely in trouble and any attacker can eavesdrop and possibly capture user names and passwords."

Haisch did point out that you can download a utility called "https everywhere" which can be used with Mozilla Firefox and Chrome.

"That utility will mitigate many of the attacks that I'm using today," said Haisch.

A link for that download is included with this story.

Keep in mind that the same concern applies to smart phones which are equipped for wifi connection. If the wifi option on the phone is turned on, it will search for wifi networks and connect if possible.

At the same time, your smartphone may be the answer to a safe internet connection in public. For an added daily fee, your carrier may be able to make your cell phone a wifi hot spot complete with password. Check with your provider to see if that's possible under your plan.

Haisch also referred to the use of an "encrypted VPN" to protect your personal information when connected to a public wifi network.
An internet search for that option will further explain how it can be used.

The bottom line according to Haisch: "If you don't enter a security code to join the network, you're vulnerable."

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