How Do I Use an Open Wi-Fi Hotspot Safely?

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I’ve returned to the same coffee shop where I was a few months ago, where I noticed my email had been hijacked/hacked. This time, I’m using my phone, but the last time, when I noticed the hack, I was using my computer and doing email over an open-internet, free Wi-Fi network.

Do you think that could be the source of the problem or just a coincidence? I’m still afraid to do email from here.

It definitely could have been. Unfortunately, it’s hard to say for sure; it could have been something else unrelated.

As we can’t really diagnose the past, let’s look ahead instead.

It can be absolutely safe to send and receive email from a coffee shop or any other location that provides unsecured or “open” Wi-Fi. In fact, I do it all the time.

But to ensure your safety, you do have to follow some very important practices.

Read moreHow Do I Use an Open Wi-Fi Hotspot Safely?

Internet Safety: 7 Steps to Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet

The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet – FREE EditionSubscribe to The Ask Leo! Newsletter and get the 88-page Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet – FREE Edition digital download as a gift. Based in part on this article, the Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet – FREE Edition will help you identify the most important steps you can take to keep your computer and yourself safe as you navigate today’s digital landscape.

Viruses and spyware and worms … oh my!

The very concept of “internet safety” is almost an oxymoron these days.

It seems not a day goes by that we don’t hear some new kind of threat aimed at wreaking havoc across machines connected to the internet.

Here are some things you can (and should) do to stay safe.

Read moreInternet Safety: 7 Steps to Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet

Can Hotel Internet Traffic Be Sniffed?

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My friend’s husband has been getting into her email even though she’s not given him her password. He has confronted his sister about an email and when asked how he got into the email he says that where he works (a large hotel chain), they have a program that searches emails for keywords and brings info up. Could that be true? Can they snoop on hotel internet traffic?

Yes.

Hotel internet security is one of the most overlooked risks travelers face. I’m not just talking wireless – I’m talking any internet connection provided by your hotel.

In fact, I’m actually writing this in a hotel room, and yes, I have taken a few precautions.

Read moreCan Hotel Internet Traffic Be Sniffed?

Is there Any Reason to Use a VPN at Home?

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Hi, Leo. I’m wondering if a VPN service might be useful at home on my personal Wi-Fi? I use a desktop and my Android smartphone there. I know it’s useful elsewhere.

A VPN or a Virtual Private Network is typically offered by a service that then encrypts all of your internet activity between your computer and their service.

Normally, a VPN isn’t particularly useful at home, but there are a few scenarios where it might make sense.

Read moreIs there Any Reason to Use a VPN at Home?

I’m Using Someone Else’s Internet Connection – Am I at Risk?

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If I use a wired internet connection provided by my colleague is there any way for him or anyone connected to that same modem to watch the files in my laptop or if they can see my laptop while I’m using the internet like Skype or Gmail?

The short answer is: absolutely yes.

You are very right to be concerned. This is a topic I touch on from time to time, and it’s worth discussing a little bit more, since the risks are very easy to overlook.

Read moreI’m Using Someone Else’s Internet Connection – Am I at Risk?

Why can’t I connect to my hotel’s wireless network?

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Leo, I can’t connect to my hotel’s wireless with my Win 7 laptop. It’s happened twice at different places. I can with the iPad. After it connects, a browser page pops up, asking me to agree to the terms. After I check the box, the browser closes and I’m on wireless. But for some reason, using Win 7, that browser doesn’t come up, but a bubble note says to click for browser; nothing happens. I tried disabling Norton’s firewall with the same results.

Many providers of free, open hotspots force you to agree to terms of service before they allow you to access their internet.  It’s a legal issue: they need to cover themselves in case people misuse or abuse their service and somehow hold them liable for it.

Sometimes that can get in the way.

Read moreWhy can’t I connect to my hotel’s wireless network?

How Do I Connect My Desktop to the Nearby Wireless Internet WiFi Hotspot?

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I have a desktop computer that is not hooked up to the internet, nor has been. There is a WiFi hot spot down the street; since it is free I would like to be able to connect to it. What do I need to buy and do to get up and connected to it?

You need two things to connect to that local hotspot. One you can probably buy at any computer store, but the other might be harder to come by.

Let me explain…

Read moreHow Do I Connect My Desktop to the Nearby Wireless Internet WiFi Hotspot?