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Saturday, 2 July 2022

Saturday, 2 Jul 2022

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Whitwick & District U3A - Computing tip May 2015

This month we are looking at what potential problems there are using public Wi-Fi.

There are now many locations which offer Wi-Fi such as cafes, hotels, airports and these can sometimes be very useful. However, they also can be risks to your security.

The most obvious case is when it is a truly open network, i.e. you do not need any password to use it. In this case anyone in the vicinity can listen in on what you are doing on the internet - where you are browsing, what email you are sending or collecting, probably including what passwords you are sending and depending on how your device is set up possibly accessing files on your device.

A network that requires a password, even a publicly available one, is rather better, but it is still relatively easy to listen in if someone really wants to. This is not to say you should never use one of these networks, but think carefully about what you are doing, and make use of the ability to "lock down" a Windows device when on a public network (fortunately this is the default for more recent versions of Windows).

So can you do anything safely? Use https (the one that shows a padlock symbol in your browser) rather than http wherever possible when visiting websites. You can install an add-on called "HTTPS Everywhere" for Chrome, Firefox and Opera, which automatically tries to use https if it is available for the site you are visiting.

If you expect to use public Wi-Fi a lot then it is worth considering the use of a VPN, which is not being covered here, but a simple web search will reveal plenty of information.

Finally don't forget the most basic aspect of all, that of shoulder-surfing i.e. someone simply looking over your shoulder at what you are doing!

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