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Staying Secure While Using Public WiFi Networks

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Tips for how to stay safe when using Wi-Fi networks. AVG Australia and New Zealand Security Evangelist Lloyd Borrett talks with Andy Wells about Internet security for mobile computer users going online via Wi-Fi networks.


Andy:  If you’re out and about with your laptop computer or your mobile device, accessing a WiFi network can be very convenient but it’s not without its dangers, right Lloyd?

Lloyd:  That’s right Andy.

Andy:  So what should people be looking out for? I mean if you see a free or unsecured WiFi network you might think “Great, free Internet access” but not necessarily the case?

Lloyd:  Not necessarily the case. It could have been provided by the bad guys. You think about it, these days you can actually travel out and about with a mobile broadband connection and set up a remote WiFi spot anywhere easily. So the bad guys could be doing it to try and capture stuff.

Andy:  And what are they trying to do and how do they do it?

Lloyd:  Well they’re trying to get any information. You know, you’re likely to be logging it to your email, you’re likely to maybe, thinking about logging in and doing shopping online or accessing various forums, your social networking sites et cetera. So they can eavesdrop in and try and get your passwords, usernames to those sort of things and you don’t want that happening. So you’ve got to be very careful when you go to use public WiFi spots.

Andy:  Okay, so you’re out and about, you crack open your laptop, you look and you see the available networks, you see there are some that are secure, some that are not secure, how do I make the choice?

Lloyd:  Well for a start, you don’t want to connect to an open, non secure one.

Andy:  That you’re not aware of? Where it’s from or who owns it?

Lloyd:  You just don’t want to do that at any time. You want to be on a secure, encrypted site with at least wpa, wpa2 type encryption. Personally I overlook any that are just using a base level of web encryption.

Andy:  So what other things should users be looking out for then?

Lloyd:  Well, you can (1:42) a secure network. So that means you’re going to require a password to get onto it. So there’s either going to be, you’re going to be paying to get onto it or it might be in a place like McDonalds or somewhere like that where they will provide you with a password but you’re now on a secure network that’s using encryption so that’s a good thing. But then you’ve got to be careful about what you do on those networks because, you know, you don’t know necessarily for sure how well it’s set up. Personally I would never do online banking, online shopping and access my email on such an account.

Andy:  Okay, so that information could be intercepted and used by cyber criminals?

Lloyd:  Yeah. And so, I’m just not going to do that. But then again, maybe I’m a bit too cautious about these things. I won’t do those things on almost any WiFi network that I didn’t set up or set up via a network professional that I know.

Andy: Okay so digging a little bit deeper on down the local café, I know there’s one down the road here and they say “Free Internet access” there is no password but they make you go through a page where you do a survey or whatever. Does that count as secure or insecure?

Lloyd: Well if there’s no password, it means it won’t be encrypted.

Andy: Right.

Lloyd: So that’s a no-go zone for me. I mean, you know, people can be using tools, they’re really available tools to eavesdrop in on an unsecure network. So it’s got to be encrypted. So no I’m not going to use that. If it is encrypted and I’m using it, then I’m going to be cautious. I’m not going to do online banking, I might access Facebook, I might access Twitter, I might go and look at a few forums that I’m on but none of the critical sensitive stuff that’s going to give people access to my financial information.

Andy: Okay and where do we get more information on accessing WiFi networks securely and that sort of thing?

Lloyd: Go to avg.com.au or avg.co.nz. Go to the “Resources” section of our website and we’ve got all sorts of information there on how to lockdown and access WiFi networks properly.

End of Interview.

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