How do you stay secure in an open wifi network?

Dec 27, 2013

Customers use wireless devices at a coffee shop in downtown Hanoi on November 28, 2013.; Credit: HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images

The spread of wireless networks from our homes to coffee shops, libraries, planes, and trains has been steady and expansive.

 Free, public wifi is available in stores and on public transit. Paid wifi on airplanes offers users access without a code once they pay, and Amtrak has expanded free wifi into more and more of its trains. Harlem has expanded a free wifi hotspot that is now the largest in the country, and frequently free, open internet is becoming an expectation. 

But how do you protect your data and personal information on a network that large and minimally maintained? How secure are free wifi hotspot networks?

Why are they so unprotected, and how should they be managed to make them as effective and secure as possible? The U.S. trails behind advances to public wireless internet that have already been put into effect in Europe and Japan – how can we catch up and make American networks most useful and safe?


Chester Wisniewski, Senior Security Advisor at Sophos Canada

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