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Keep Wi-Fi snoops off your smart phone

Consumer Reports News: May 02, 2013 02:08 PM

Wi-Fi can be so tempting, making it easy for you to do just about anything online when you're away from home. But you should be thinking before clicking, because most public Wi-Fi could make your private information a bit too, well, public.

More than 20 percent of smart-phone owners used their phones to make a financial transaction over a Wi-Fi connection other than the one in their home or office, according to our newest State of the Net survey. That may have left them vulnerable to having their transactions intercepted by people who weren't meant to see them.

How can you protect yourself?

  • If your transaction is being done from a website, make sure the URL starts with [https://] (no brackets), which signals a more-secure page.

  • Turn off Wi-Fi and switch your phone to 3G/4G mode (which is less risky) before you send or receive sensitive data.

  • You might also want to purchase a virtual private network, which encrypts your data before sending it. Take a look at the one from Astrill, which costs $70 a year, or check into one of the many free ones.

  • Finally, if you're using an app to conduct your transaction, check the app's privacy policy to see how it handles sensitive information being transmitted wirelessly.

See more of our survey findings along with our infographic, "How well do you protect your information?", and our interactive quiz: "Would you download this app?" in our story, "Keep your phone safe: How to protect yourself from wireless threats." And for many more tips on keeping safe and private online, visit our Guide to Internet Security.

Donna L. Tapellini

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