Most of us are guilty of it.  You are sitting in a coffee shop, an airport or in the park and you find a moment to open your backpack and pull out your laptop, I-Pad or smart phone. Time to check in at work, (or see what is happening in the lives of your Facebook friends).

The Wi-Fi Wave at the top of your device will give you options on which wireless network to choose to interface with. Scroll down and you may find everything from optimumwifi, to wisedragonfly to hiltonguest. Twenty options may appear. The choice you make, may mean the difference between keeping your personal and private information safe, and sharing it with thieves that may rip you off. So, what is the wise choice.

1. Choose the Network with the “Lock” On it. - You are going to have a choice. Many hotspots across the country have no security set. You can simply log on. And that is where the danger lies. If you have an account with a company such as Optimum Online, you can change the settings on your devise to recognize a familiar wireless connection as you move from place to place. If not available, you should choose a network that has some form of encryption. You will see a “lock” icon next to the Wi-Fi strength signal to indicate which hotspots are secure. Always choose a LOCKED Wi-Fi Network.

Of course, you will need the password key to access, but some establishments (hotels, restaurants, Starbucks) have set up special "Guest" Wi-Fi access portals, and they will provide guests with Wi-Fi passwords.  If you click on the wireless options a screen will appear to tell you what "Type" of network it is. The most common types of wireless security are Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and WPA2. ALWAYS choose WPA2 first, then WPA. WEP is the oldest security standard, and is a notoriously weak. The password it uses can often be cracked in a few minutes with a basic laptop computer and widely available software tools.

2. Only visit websites with https:// -  Short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, HTTPS is a protocol which uses HTTP on a connection encrypted by transport-layer security. HTTPS is used to protect transmitted data from getting into the wrong hands.  The "S' indicates "security." It is designed to transmit financial transactions on the web. It indicates that your personal data that you are transmitting is secure.  To determine if a website is encrypted, look for https at the start of the web address (the “s” is for secure). Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session isn’t encrypted, your entire account could be vulnerable. Look for https on every page you visit, not just when you sign in.

3. Log out when you are done.  - Often websites will ask you if you want to "save your password". This will enable your device to recognize and automatically log into a Wi-Fi device or a website. To keep someone from hacking into your account it is always wise that, when you’ve finished using an account, log out.

4. Keep your browser and security firewalls and software up to date - If there is an update available, make sure you download it right away. Updates often contain additional security software that will help to protect your information.

5. Pay attention to what your device is telling you -  Many web browsers alert users who try to visit fraudulent websites or download malicious programs. If you receive a warning DO NOT CLICK.

Always remember that there is always someone out there that is doing everything possible to break into your devices and steal your information. Financial Data, Passwords, Social Security Numbers are all vulnerable. Taking extra time and precautions on how you access and share advice, can save you months of frustration and aggravation in the long run.

# WI-Fi #hotspots, #Https, #security, #cyberaware, #cyber #wrg #warwick