There’s no such thing as a free lunch, the old saying goes, and it could be updated to say there’s no such thing as free public wifi.

You go for coffee, you go to the theatre, you wait in an airport lounge, you’re in the European parliament, and the signs encourage you to log on to the free wifi. If you’re savvy, you pass on that. Theft of information (including password and identify theft) as it’s sent across public wifi is becoming increasingly common.

If you don’t have to enter a passphrase, then the wifi won’t be encrypted – that should be enough to stop you. If you do have to enter a passphrase, then you expose your web activities to the company providing the wifi. That will be distinct from the company whose premises you’re in – they’ll be buying in a service from someone whose business model will benefit from knowing what all its users are doing. That’s certainly enough to put us off, but if you need any more reason to stay away, how about that the hotspot you’re using might itself be compromised? The technology is out there and the criminals are using it.

Posted in: Security