The Price of Wi-Fi can take off in airports

Jan. 1, 2020
People are plugged into their computers, PDAs, Blackberrys and cell phones more frequently today than at any time in the past.

Illegitimate networks allow hackers full access to your computers.

People are plugged into their computers, PDAs, Blackberrys and cell phones more frequently today than at any time in the past. When traveling, a number of people will take advantage of free wireless Internet connections — Wi-Fi — at airports across the country.

But the Better Business Bureau (BBB) this summer released a warning that not all Wi-Fi is free, nor does it always fulfill its promises. In fact, it can cost you, your company and even program group in large ways.

The BBB warns that hackers are setting up fake Wi-Fi connections that actually are "ad-hoc" networks or peer-to-peer connections. You still can surf the Internet, check your e-mail and a number of other functions, but it will be through the hacker's computer. This means the hacker can steal passwords as well as credit card, bank account and Social Security numbers. Files even can be stolen.

These ad-hoc networks, posing as "Free Wi-Fi," often have appeared in airports in Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, the BBB reports. To protect yourself from hackers, the organization offers a number of suggestions to follow while traveling:

  • Never connect to an unfamiliar ad-hoc network. Hackers can name their networks anything, including legitimate offerings from airports. The BBB suggests visiting support.microsoft.com for ways to distinguish between an ad-hoc network and a normal Wi-Fi network with Windows Vista or XP.
  • Make sure your computer does not automatically connect to non-preferred networks. This way you will be able to better track what networks you're connecting to.
  • Turn off file sharing when you're on the road. If you do this, hackers will not be able to steal documents, files and unencrypted e-mail from your computer.
  • Create a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for your business. A VPN is a private network across a public network that resembles a tunnel, according to the BBB. No one outside the tunnel can access information inside.