What Does It Mean When Internet Access Is Unsecure?
An unsecure wireless connection is one you can access without a password. Public networks offered in places like cafes are often open. Although these provide free wireless Internet access, using public Internet comes with dangers. If your home Internet is open, you should consider securing wireless access to protect your data and avoid legal trouble.
The two types of public networks are ones that are left open by businesses and ones that are left open by individuals. An open network from a business allows customers to use the Internet in the establishment — such as patrons of a coffee shop using the network to work. An open network in a home comes from a router that hasn’t been secured. Sometimes this is unintentional, if the owner doesn’t know that her network is open. However, an unsecure wireless connection isn’t always bad. Some experienced users opt to leave their Wi-Fi open for the public to access, with proper security precautions to protect their data and bandwidth.
The Risks of Hosting Open Wi-Fi
Although there’s a certain nobility in sharing your Wi-Fi with your neighborhood, there’s also a danger in it. Unscrupulous users sometimes cruise around looking for unsecure wireless connections to exploit — such as the 2011 arrest of a man after someone else used his open wireless to download child pornography.
While it’s an extreme example, other risks are hackers snooping on data sent over your network and using your network to access your computer’s files and system information. Having users on your Wi-Fi also uses your bandwidth, which can become costly if your ISP charges for bandwidth overages.
Implementing Wireless Security
Every router has some wireless security features built into the settings. Log in to your router’s administration settings using your browser; if you’ve never done this before, the IP address and default login details are usually on the bottom of the router. When choosing wireless security, WPA2 is the most secure, while WEP is the easiest for outside users to crack. Set a strong password, and only share the password with people you trust. Some routers also offers a Guest Network setting, which allows you to create a secure wireless network and another unsecure network, which offers you home security and an open network for visitors or neighbors.
Safety on Public Networks
If you routinely access public networks, you can still browse safely. Avoid entering anything sensitive, such as bank or credit card information. If you have to access this data, consider using a virtual private network (VPN), which encrypts all the data you send using an external server. Disable file sharing while you’re on a public network. Make sure you’re using a public connection owned by a business, as it goes both ways — users can set up fake public networks in an attempt to catch your private data.