Wireless Security is a Big Problem! But not for RVers using Wi-Fi.

When it comes to using Wi-Fi, the most asked question is “What about Security?”   “I don’t want to do my banking online because I’ve heard so much about wireless networks being unsecure.”

Yes, we do hear a lot about security problems with wireless networks, but it’s usually referring to something other than using a Wi-Fi Hotspot for Internet access.  Take this headline for example:

“Wireless Security Puts IRS Data at Risk”

I prepared my taxes online using Turbotax and transmitted them electronically over a Wi-Fi hotspot in an RV park.  Does this article mean my tax return was at risk of being seen?  No.  Not at all.  The article is not referring to a public hotspot at all.  It is referring to an IRS office.  The people in that office use a wireless network to do their work; work that involves hundreds of tax returns.  If their network is not adequately secured, a hacker standing just outside their office could *possibly* gain access to that same data.

This is a completely different animal than my using a Wi-Fi hotspot to transmit my tax return.  A public Wi-Fi hotspot is almost always ‘unsecure’.  It has to be in order for people to connect to it!  When I logged in to my account at Turbotax, the Turbotax website takes care of making that particular connection ‘secure’ by encrypting all the data as it leaves my computer, travels thru the local wireless network and across the Internet.  So, if a hacker was ‘sniffing’ the air and grabbing the signals being transmitted by my computer, all he would see is gibberish; encrypted data.

I feel perfectly safe transmitting financial information over a website that is ‘secure’.  How do you know it’s secure?  By the httpS (S stands for secure) and the little lock on your status bar.  By the same token, I would *never* send sensitive data in an email regardless of how I’m connected to the Internet.  That’s like writing on a postcard.  Rarely are emails encrypted or safe.  (Just ask Senator Foley!) 

One thing that is good idea when using a public Wi-Fi hotspot, is to turn off file-sharing.  It’s highly unlikely that anyone could gain access to the files on your computer.  And, it’s even more unlikely that anyone would even try because they’d have to be nearby, connected to the same network.  On a wireless network, you are not exposed to the entire Internet, just those connected to the same wireless network.  If you turn off file and printer sharing on your computer, then you’re not even exposed to them.

There’s lots more to know about wireless security, but these are the major points I make to RVers all the time.  So, go ahead!  Do your banking at Wi-Fi hotspots.  I believe your best protection against fraud is to check your account transactions often. How do you do that?  By accessing your account online!


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