Free hotspots operate in two ways:
- Using an open public network is the easiest way to create a free HotSpot. All that is needed is a Wi-Fi router. Private users of wireless routers can turn off their authentication requirements, thus opening their connection, intentionally or not, for sharing by anyone in range. The disadvantage is that access to the router cannot be controlled.
- Closed public networks use a HotSpot Management System to control the HotSpot. This software runs on the router itself or an external computer. With this software, operators can authorize only specific users to access the Internet, and they often associate the free access to a menu or to a purchase limit. Operators are also now able to limit each user's available bandwidth - each user is therefore restricted to a certain speed to ensure that everyone gets a good quality service. Often this is done through Service Level Agreements.
The websites you are visiting exposed. While not necessarily a big deal to some, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
· Login information to any unsecure (Non-SSL) site that you sign into. This can include but is not limited to banking and email, which can include a vast amount of personal information. Even sites such as web forums or a majority of social networking sites such as Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook are also available to hackers.
Using an unsecured hotspot or entering your password into an unsecured web site while on one is basically like leaving your front door unlocked where complete strangers can wander in and find any information about you.
A few key bits of information to keep in mind are:
· Never connect to an unsecured network. The various encryption settings for wireless networks are:
o Unsecure – No encryption at all. Anything broadcasted over the network can be seen by anyone.
o WEP Encrypted – The bare minimum of encryption and safety on wireless networks. Although it provides protection against random people, anyone that wants to break the encryption can do so easily in 5 minutes.
o WPA & WPA2 – the definite choice for security. Although they can be broken, information sent over these networks is encrypted and take much more to break.
· Only connect to crucial sites using HTTPS (You should see the lock symbol in your browser and also https://websiteyourarevisiting).
· Make sure your antivirus/malware software is up to date and running.
· Make sure your firewall is up and running.
· Make sure Windows is updated with all the latest security patches from Windows Update.
· Turn off file and printer sharing before connecting to public networks. Although you may not have sensitive files on your computer, there are still malicious attacks that can be launched with it on.
· If you do have sensitive files on your network and must connect to public hotspots, consider encrypting that data using a program such as True Crypt.
These are only a few key points to keep you safe while connecting to wireless hotspots. Basically when you are on them your need to be extra cautious of sites you visit and information you enter into your pc onto these sites.