What dangers are there in borrowing a wireless Internet connection?
Network cables are becoming a thing of the past. Nearly every laptop that is sold now has wi-fi capabilities built in. Almost everywhere you go, you can see wireless connections available from your laptop’s wireless utility. Maybe you even borrow your neighbor’s wi-fi signal. All this free Internet is not without risk.
When you set up your own wireless network at home, normally it is secured with a password so no one else can use it. This protects your computers from being hacked by others on the same wireless connection. Everyone that is accessing the Internet, must pass through the firewall in your wireless router in order to access your computers. A firewall keeps your computers safe like being within the walls of a castle.
When you connect to a wireless connection at a wi-fi café, hotel or from your neighbor, you expose your computer to hackers that may be on the same connection. Your computer is vulnerable. Hackers could access your computer, stealing personal files like financial aid applications, credit applications, tax returns or financial records that could be used to get fraudulent credit in your name. They could also upload viruses or spyware.
To protect yourself, only connect to public wi-fi if necessary. Make sure you have firewall software running on your computer. Use your operating system’s built in protections, for example Windows Vista will prompt you to indicate if the connection is at home or public. Take precautions or you could receive a credit card bill on a card you didn’t apply for with purchases you didn’t make.