At a popular coffee shop, you and a business associate turn your focus to a discussion of imminent company changes. Instinctively, you glance over your shoulder and visually scan the area near you; is anyone eavesdropping?

Having a conversation in a public place involves some degree of risk; others could overhear your communication.

If you use public wireless network access (Wi-Fi) with portable computers for email, web browsing, Instant Messaging, file transfer, and remote login, you face a different type of eavesdropping.

Wi-Fi at the coffee shop, airport, hotel, and library = Convenience

Yet, if you are not careful, someone on the other side of the room, next door, or in the parking lot could electronically see and store your communications. Like everything else in life, Wi-Fi involves both benefits and hazards. Still, if you take prudent steps, you can mitigate the risk.

When using Wi-Fi, consider this:

1. Avoid Sending Private Data – If you would not publicly discuss sensitive information, why send or receive it over public Wi-Fi?

2. Turn Wi-Fi Off – When Wi-Fi is not needed, disable it on your laptop to avoid the risk of unintended communication.

3. Use Only Trusted Networks – If the Wi-Fi is not supplied by a reputable business that you know and trust, stay off.

4. Use Encryption – Tools such as website encryption (https) and VPN improve security.

5. Don’t Trust Everyone – Set your computer so that it recognizes you are on a public network and does not share files with other computers.

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