Home > Life, science > Protect Your Privacy on Wi-Fi Networks

Protect Your Privacy on Wi-Fi Networks

Be careful when you use wireless networks. Photo: BBC.

A big problem with our stupid airport security is that it makes people think all security is stupid.

But it’s not. Especially when you’re using your computer over a wireless (wi-fi) network.

If you check your email, log into Facebook, or buy something, you’re sending your private information over a wireless network. Some of the information will be “encrypted” so that it’s unreadable. But a lot of it won’t. Eavesdroppers can intercept and read any information that isn’t encrypted.

That even applies to Web sites that encrypt your login information, like your user name and password. Those Web sites forgot to encrypt the little text files, called “cookies,” that they send in response to your login. Someone can intercept those cookies and get your login information. There’s a Web browser add-in called Firesheep that does it.

Even if they don’t get your login information or your cookies (I’m very careful about who I let touch my cookies), they can still intercept and see everything you do online. That includes what you write in emails, what Facebook pages you view, and what Web sites you visit.

I have both a Macbook and an iPod Touch, so I use wireless networks a lot. LITS provides wireless coverage on campus, and a lot of other places have it. It is of course pretty safe on campus. But I don’t want to risk anyone snooping on my personal information.

Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself. With a PC or a Mac, you can use the GoTrusted Secure Tunnel service. For $5.99 a month, it encrypts all of the information you send over the wireless network. A free, advertising-supported product that does the same thing (for PCs only) is HotSpot Shield.

On your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, you can go to the App Store and download VPN Express. The software itself is free but you pay for the amount of information you send over wireless networks.

Using the encryption services isn’t as simple as just connecting to the network. But it makes your personal information and your privacy a little safer.

Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

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