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Watching Your Cyber Back

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We’ve all heard about the Equifax oops that could potentially impact nearly 150 million U.S. consumers. It’s a big deal, to be sure. But every day tens of thousands of people’s computers, phones, and online worlds are compromised through public Wi-Fi networks. While criminals are at fault for the hacks, ordinary people can do a lot to protect themselves from would-be hackers.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, some of the most unsecure places to go online are in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, universities, and other public places. If you connect to an unsecure Wi-Fi network, your device and personal information could be accessed by other people. And some of those people might not have the best of intentions.

If you need to use an unsecure Wi-Fi network, stick to sites that are fully encrypted. Encryption scrambles the information you send over the internet. You can tell if a site is encrypted by looking for an https at the start of the web address. The “s” stands for secure. However, an encrypted website can only protect the information you send to and from that site. Anything else you do on your phone, tablet, or computer is fair game.

Apps are Not More Secure
According to FTC officials, apps are even more likely to be hacked than websites. If you are using an unsecure Wi-Fi network, they strongly suggest you do not use apps that send or utilize personal or financial information. Instead, use your phone or tablet’s data to send private information.

Not All Wi-Fi is Equal
Even if the network you log into requires a password, it’s up to you to protect your personal information. Here are few ways you can protect yourself on a Wi-Fi network.

  • Logout of the network when you’re not using it or when you leave.
  • Change the settings on your mobile device so that you don’t automatically connect to public Wi-Fi.
  • Do some research into virtual private networks (VPNs). They are simple to set up and can add a layer of protection to your online world.
  • WEP and WPA encryption are the standard, but they are not as strong as WPA2. When possible, login to networks using WPA2.
  • Installing browser add-ons may help. Force-TLS and HTTPS-Everywhere are free options.


Think your financial information may have been compromised? Give us a call at 503.397.2376 or stop by any branch. We’ll show you how to get a free, annual copy of your credit report and how to spot possible fraudulent activity.