July 4, 2014

Free Wi-Fi Security

Free Wi-Fi is becoming more popular, but such networks
can have their drawbacks.
The last time Linda and I lived out of a van about the only place that had free Internet access was the local public library. How things have changed since then.

On this trip I have been able to communicate with friends and do posts for my blogs right out of our van, and for free. Access has never been better. By 2009 North America was already home to nearly 83,000 free Wi-Fi access points. Many points are provided by businesses.

I don't want to do any advertising for the corporations that provide free Wi-Fi to get more customers in the door, but will direct you toward popular fast food establishments or coffee shops. Often the connection can be established in the parking lot, so you don't even need to go in for a glass of water.

Municipalities are also getting into providing free Wi-Fi access, and I will share a link to those, starting with Canadian and American communities. Europe has even more than we do.

Municipal wireless networks for North American and the rest of the world can be found by clicking here.

While free Wi-Fi is nice, it does have its drawbacks. Knowing a bit about security can help. The following tips are from a post on public computers and free networks.

  • Don't connect to a public wireless network unless you know who the provider is. Be especially suspicious of "ad hoc" networks (this type may also be labeled as an "Unsecured computer-to-computer network").
  • When in doubt, ask someone what the name of the network is before connecting (especially if you see networks with names like "linksys," "hpsetup," "netgear," "tmobile," "default," etc.).
  • A wireless network is more secure if it uses encryption, preferably WPA or WPA2 encryption. (To use a "secure" network you will have to enter an encryption key the first time you connect to it.)
  • By their very nature, public wireless networks are not secure. There are security risks even if you are using a "security enabled" network that uses encryption.
  • Your information is not protected while using wireless networks. Don't use public wireless for business or financial transactions.
  • If you see a wireless network named "Free Public Wifi" in your list of available networks, you should never connect to it because of potential security risks.

If used cautiously these Wi-Fi access points can be useful and fun. And free.

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