Easy Espionage: Protecting yourself against identity theft - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Easy Espionage: Protecting yourself against identity theft

In the world we live, people want to stay in touch.  We're connected through laptops, phones, ipads.  Sending and receiving information through the Internet.  

Don Bric/Grandads.com President: "80% of people are connected to the Internet these days.  You don't think of how much you use it."

But how much risk is there when we're in public?  The wi-fi you connect to may be a wi-fi that puts your money, and perhaps your identity, at risk.

Grandads.com President Don Bric works in the computer security field.  He says technology is out there that allows people to set up what's called "evil twin hotspots".

What is an evil twin hotspot?  Bric: "Someone can set up wi-fi with a name similar to a public place and steal information."

How quickly does it work?  Bric: "It's instantaneous."

What happens when they have your password? Bric: "They pretend to be you.  And can draw down your bank account or send spam from your email."

So how do you make sure your information doesn't end up in the wrong hands?

Bric says when you're on a public wi-fi, never use sites where you enter passwords or credit card information.  He recommends you save that work for your home computer.  Or, if you're on the go with a smart phone, connect through your provider.

The Marathon County Public Library has offered wi-fi since 2006. 

Garrett Erickson/Marathon Co. Public Library: "There's a huge increase in mobile devices.  Our PCs are empty while wireless is full of users."

It's an open network, meaning you don't need an account or password.  Anyone who wants to log on will find a page with terms.  Once you agree, you're free to surf.

Erickson: "We educate people about wi-fi."

The support services manager says the library has not had a report of a computer being hacked on their network. Still, even on open networks like theirs, he says you should not do financial work or visit a page like Facebook.. where you have to use a password.  And some sites you can type h-t-t-p-s-colon for security.. but the experts say it wouldn't stop a hacker intent on finding your information.

Garrett Erickson/Marathon Co. Public Library: "Never makes it 100% secure but it ensures another layer of security."

Stacey Gusman of Wausau uses her laptop for both work and at home.. as she completes her doctoral.  She knows the risk involved with wireless security.

Stacey Gusman/Wausau: "I have some acquaintances who had issues.  So I'm vigilant when selecting pass codes."

She says she's careful to lock down her laptop and change passwords on a regular basis.  The experts say that's a good idea. They also say a good combination of letters and numbers also gives passwords added strength.  They also suggest downloading VPN software.. that's short for Virtual Private Network. It gives users a centralized secure network.  They strongly advise this for travelers, who face the biggest risk for this type of espionage because they're in airports and hotels, where wi-fi signals are easy to come across.  

The Federal Trade Commission reports for the last 12 years in a row the top consumer complaint is identity theft.
In 2011 alone, they received almost 280,000 complaints nationwide.

Bryon's notes on the subject of identity theft.

There are a lot of sites out there that address ways to avoid identity theft through the Internet.

  This one gives a list of 10 tips, several of which were addressed in our story.

The FBI provides some advice on wi-fi security.
The article was written in 2008 but the tips remain true today.  Back then they reported 68,000 hotspots in the United States.  They also break down the top ten nations (at the time) using wi-fi.


Speaking of hotspots in other countries, what if you're a student and planning to travel overseas?  The FBI has a full brochure.  Check out the first part.  They give tips on telephone, laptop and PDA security.

A computer security expert was traveling to Florida to give a speech to the Treasury Department about avoided ID theft.  Guess what?  He became a victim of that very crime.  This is especially a good read for people who travel a lot.


What if you become a victim of identity theft?  The FTC offers some steps to respond and recover.


Bryon Graff
Twitter: @bgraff_waow


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