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How to Be Secure at Wi-Fi Hotspots

While Wi-Fi hotspots are hands-down the most popular and efficient way of getting online on the road, they do have perils. The key problem is that public hotspots (whether free or paid) must by their nature be "open," or unencrypted, so that new users can connect without having to know a password. Sending unencrypted data flying through the air leaves it vulnerable to interception, just as unencrypted cellular and cordless phone conversations used to be. (Remember all those stories about Princess Diana's calls?) Wi-Fi eavesdroppers can -- and do -- use readily available utilities to "sniff" all the data passing over a wireless network. Banking passwords, email logins, sensitive company data and much more can all pass free and clear for hackers to capture when you are connected at a hotspot. Check out this chilling example of a hijacked email.

So what can you do about this very real threat? Lots! First, you can check the safety of your connection at any time using our free Wi-Fi Security Test, which runs in Internet Explorer on Windows. This test works for home and office Wi-Fi networks as well as public ones. And if you have a home Wi-Fi router, follow the step-by-step process for locking down your network given in our Complete Guide to Wi-Fi Security. This should give you a reasonably bullet-proof home Wi-Fi cloud. For hotspots on the road, you'll need to take a different approach, one that involves superimposing security measures on otherwise open networks. That's where JiWire Hotspot Helper comes in.