Encryption Has Made Public Wi-Fi Connections Safer But Not Risk-Free

April 18, 2019

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The siren's call of free Wi-Fi has long been enticing to an Internet connected world but much like their story in Greek mythology, public Wi-Fi can be dangerous with venerable computer connections easy targets for hackers.  It is why security experts have long warned people to avoid unsecured Wi-Fi connections. But do we listen? Of course not but have public Wi-Fi spots become safer to use? Well, sorta. One of the biggest game changers in Wi-Fi safety is the now widespread use of encryption. Transport layer security, or TLS, is used to encrypt data sent between your browser and the servers it’s trying to access. You can see if your data is encrypted if the web address contains "HTTPS," as well as a little padlock logo. TLS scrambles the data, leaving it all but useless to any attacker who might intercept it, including hackers who can carry out “man in the middle” attacks by using the same Wi-Fi network their target is using. According to Mozilla, about 87 percent of the web traffic to U.S. users of its Firefox browser is now encrypted. That’s up from about 73 percent in January of this year and 56 percent a year before that. So Wi-Fi connections haven't become more secure, but teh software has and although there is still a small chance your computer can e hacked using public Wi-Fi, the chances are less than they were a decade ago.  But protecting your computer still remains the same, with security experts still advising people to make sure their firewalls and antivirus software are up to date.  They also suggest if you are sending sensitive information, it is safer to use your phone's data signal instead of the coffee shop Wi-Fi.

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SOURCE: Consumer Reports

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