You can access the Internet literally anywhere these days. If you go into a neighborhood cafe, book store, university, or even your local car dealership, there is "free Wi-Fi" established for your use. As a result, you can work or play on the Internet while you wait , eat or just hang out. However, some people are connecting without truly realizing the security risks of using Wi-Fi "hot spots." Let's take a look at some important tips to consider to keep you safe while using a Wi-Fi network:

Tip #1: A Wi-Fi hot spot is never secure. No matter where you access a Wi-Fi hot spot, it is always an unsecured connection. In essence, you and potential hackers are surfing on the same Internet wave. Even if the hot spot requires a password or log-in screen, you are still at risk. There are certain built-in security features that you should take advantage of whether you use Mac OS-X or Windows. Be sure to enable your firewall (through security settings) and check off"Block all incoming traffic." You should also disable any file sharing capability while using a hot spot.

Tip #2: Look for the padlock. Websites that use HTTPS encrypt your activity; therefore, anything you do on that site is confidential. Look for a padlock in the address bar or simply check the URL for "https:/1...." You can also download H7TPS Everywhere, which is an add-on that will force an encrypted connection on many popular sites; however, not all websites allow this add-on.

Tip #3: Be sure you are using the appropriate Wi-Fi network. Check with an employee at the place where you are using the hot spot to make sure you are logging into the correct network. Some hackers may set up fake networks like "FREE Public Wi-Fi," or use the name of the venue as a way to access your information.

Tip #4: Make sure you have updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software on your computer. You never want to be "unarmed " when you are using a hot spot. Make sure your anti-virus and anti-spyware software programs are updated. If something seems wrong when you are using the Internet, get out as soon as possible. Don't take a chance with your information.

Tip #5: Use common sense. You should treat all open networks as a security risk. We would recommend not doing any type of banking, online shopping or anything else that would expose your private information while on a Wi-Fi network. The rule of thumb to consider is that if you aren't willing to share the information with the public, it is wise to simply wait until you get home to do it (or do it with the secure network of your phone).

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