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Watch Your Wi-Fi: The Dangers of Public Networks

Many Hoosiers aren't aware of, or aren't taking, basic steps to protect their personal infor on public  Wi-Fi. Credit: Jan Oosterhuis/Wikimedia Commons
Many Hoosiers aren't aware of, or aren't taking, basic steps to protect their personal infor on public Wi-Fi. Credit: Jan Oosterhuis/Wikimedia Commons
August 11, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS – In today's high-tech world, public Wi-Fi networks can seem like a great convenience when you're on the go, but experts say it's critical to think before you click in order to protect your identity and personal information.

Whether it's at the corner coffee shop or traveling to new places, new research from the AARP Fraud Watch Network finds more than one in four Internet-using adults logs on to free, public Wi-Fi networks at least once a week.

Mandla Moyo with AARP Indiana cautions there are things you should not be doing online when you're not on a secure network.

"Things like online banking, purchasing products, anywhere where they have to enter really big personal information," he says. "Accessing your email, your credit card accounts, those types of things. "

Nearly a third of the Hoosiers surveyed by AARP report they never change their email or online banking passwords. Moyo says no matter what the network, it's critical to be vigilant about protecting personal information online. He also recommends checking your computer or phone's settings to ensure they aren't automatically connecting to Wi-Fi networks where available.

When it comes to public Wi-Fi, Moyo says what you see isn't always what you get. A trick known as "spoofing" can make a malicious connection appear to be safe.

"The hackers and people who are scammers have found a way to be able to mimic a lot of the public Wi-Fi, and steal data and steal information from people," he says.

While the vast majority of Indiana's Internet users report being concerned about online safety, the survey found most could answer only five out of 10 Internet-safety questions correctly. The AARP Fraud Watch Network website now includes a section dedicated to Wi-Fi safety.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - IN