by Sean Devlin, Front Rush
If you and I were at a Starbucks together and you went on Facebook, I could steal your Facebook login information, post very bad things on your behalf and make all kinds of friend requests to all the people that you don’t want me to (ex-girlfrends or bestfriends, etc).
Even though I would really never do that, it doesn’t take someone that savvy to do something similar. On most public wifi networks (like at hotels, coffee shops, gyms, etc), your data is transmitting right in the open and can be intercepted by anyone willing to do a google search and download some malicious software. It seems ridiculous (scare tactic-esc) but it’s true.
So what do you do? Well first off, you are pretty safe with any site that uses https connections (you know when you type in the browser www.something and it changes it to https://www.something). This is in contrast with sites that use just http (or http://www.something. So anytime you are on public wifi and login to a site, make sure that the login page has https and not http otherwise you are asking for dangerous type stuff. It should also be noted that you should also concern yourself with the fact that often times the home pages of different sites will not have the https, only the login screen will. This is usually ok.
Secondly, I highly recommend using something like Cloak (getcloak.com for Mac users). Cloak is what is known as a VPN service. When you access the internet through a public wifi, you turn on cloak and it re-routes all of your traffic securely so that someone would have to be super-duper savvy to steal your stuff. Whenever I do anything on a public network, I use a VPN (like Cloak). It isn’t because we should be paranoid…..it’s just good practice at this point. Your university or workplace may also have a VPN that you can use and I would recommend asking them about it if they don’t.