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Posted: 3:23 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, 2013

Rip-Off Alert

New danger of having private info stolen at free wifi hotspots

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By Clark Howard

ClarkHoward.com


New technology allowing amateurs to hack into password-protected accounts makes it more important than ever that you surf with care at free wifi hotspots.

Free wifi is popping up in more and more places. It's a differentiator for businesses that can really help bring in the customers. Clark was even at a convenience store that had free wifi! Customers love it, but the criminals love it too, unfortunately.

So many free wifi systems don't have any form of encryption on the data being transmitted. It used to be that if you went to Facebook or to an online banking site, somebody had to be good techie to steal your password info. But that was then and this is now.

USA Today reports that amateurs can download free programs that allow them to do what's called "sidejacking," which is essentially a takeover of all the info on your computer. For obvious reasons, Clark has elected not to name these services on the air.

You are asking for it if you go to any password-protected site if you are using free wifi without any encryption. Someone with little to no technical expertise can capture your info with no effort. That's what makes this such a serious issue. The barrier for criminals has been lowered dramatically.

Of course, there's a simple solution to the problem: Don't do anything at a wifi hot spot of a personal nature that requires a password.

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