SPECIAL REPORT: Securing your connection, Thur. at 10 - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Securing your connection

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(WAOW) - Wireless internet, or Wi-Fi has changed the way we surf the web in public.

More and more businesses are using the technology to bring in customers, and some cities are offering free Wi-Fi for residents.

While it's convenient, logging on to free Wi-Fi could make your private information open to the public.

Free Wi-Fi at Allister Deacon's in Wausau allows people to surf the web without plugging in. "The benefit of that is to give people the opportunity to get their work done to get their school projects finished in an atmosphere that is friendly and easy to work in," said Allister Deacon's owner Jim Wanta.

Wi-Fi is everywhere says HappyMac Digital Electronics CEO Brian Jojade. Businesses, homes and even public parks let you connect without the cords.

And a growing number of devices are using it. "Anything you can imagine has a potential for Wi-Fi," said Jojade, "camera's will have it, game systems, TV's, you name it there will be Wi-Fi on it."

While it's opened up the opportunity to connect almost anywhere, it's also opened a cyber door to danger.

"Being wireless means you have to pay attention to security, because wireless, someone can connect to you that's not physically connected to you," said Jojade.

Jojade says while Wi-Fi hacking isn't common, it does happen. Because you're not hard wired from one reliable source directly to another, hackers have an opening to jump into the process.

Jojade says hacking Wi-Fi is easy, especially with public Wi-Fi.

In one example of a hack, hackers will set up a Wi-Fi hub with the exact same name as a public Wi-Fi spot. Because it's the same name, but a stronger signal, the computer automatically jumps to the fake Wi-Fi and the hacker is in control.

Once you are redirected to the hackers site, anything you type in can be stolen. That includes passwords, credit card numbers, even bank information.

Sometimes the hackers make the fake sites look almost exactly like real sites.

The most alarming part, is that you don't know your Wi-Fi has been hacked. "There's no easy way to detect that this actually happened," said Jojade.

The process works anywhere Wi-Fi is available. "Unfortunately, when you are connecting to public networks, there's not a lot you can do," said Jojade.

Public Wi-Fi is just that, public. There is no way for you to secure it.

So how do you protect yourself when using public Wi-Fi? Change your habits.

"If you are going to connect to public Wi-Fi, make sure what you're doing on your computer is something public," said Jojade. In other words, save your banking and buying for a secure connection like your home or your own personal hot spot. Use public Wi-Fi for surfing headlines and sports scores.

Used the right way, Wi-Fi can make our lives easier. Which is why, even thought there are drawback, it's still a must-have for so many businesses.

"People do seek out the internet and we offer it free of charge so it's a benefit," said Wanta.

What about securing your Wi-Fi at home? Jojade says it's as simple has having a password on your Wi-Fi that only you know.

The hack example we used is dependent on the hacker having access to the account. A password blocks that.

Helpful links:

https://www.fcc.gov/guides/protecting-your-wireless-network

http://www.onguardonline.gov/articles/0014-tips-using-public-wi-fi-networks

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