With convenient access to Wi-Fi hot spots everywhere, most people jump on and off various public networks without ever thinking about online security. For example, you want to find a good cup of coffee, so you search for it online through your smartphone. Then you use Google Maps, which knows where you are, and can identify a coffee shop close by and then guide you there. Once in the shop, you jump onto your bank website to check your account balance before adding breakfast to your coffee purchase. You then pay with your phone without ever having to dig into your wallet.
You might complete a similar process several times a day without ever thinking about the potential cyber thief who may be using those same networks in search of easy targets. The beauty of a public network is that they are widely available. The challenge with a public network is thieves can use the network to prey on innocent people. A cyber thief can see your every move, including any usernames and passwords you key in, or even account balances shown on your screen.

It does not matter if you are on a financial website for 10 seconds or 10 minutes, when it comes to public networks, you can become vulnerable to cyber crimes.

Cyber Threats: How big is the problem?

Cyber crimes have reached epidemic levels in recent years as consumers and corporations move to a more digital footprint. From 2013 to 2015 the cost to businesses quadrupled, and costs are expected to quadruple again between 2015 and 2020 to over 2 trillion dollars. Lloyds of London estimates losses were over $400 billion in 2015.
The increasing costs of cyber crimes have fueled both cyber security products and cyber insurance. Cyber security generated $75 billion in sales in 2015 and is expected to grow to over $175 billion by 2020. Cyber insurance is expected to grow from $2.5 billion to $7.5 billion over the same time period.

Finding Ways to Protect Your Data

Part of the solution involves companies spending more money each year to upgrade their website and app security.The other part of the puzzle requires consumers to use more care when accessing personal or sensitive data, particularly on public networks, when it is easy for cyber thieves to troll the airwaves and gather information from unsuspecting consumers.

What is An Unsecured Network?

Networks with no passwords or security are the first places that come to mind, which can include public places like libraries, restaurants, retail stores, and parks.With these types of networks, consumers are not required to use a password or anything identifying themselves.
However, public networks also include password protected networks with many users. For example, hotels often create passwords for guests. If the hotel has 200 rooms, that can be 200 or more people per night using the same network. Because the password does not change over time, thousands of people quickly have the password saved to their devices, giving thieves easy access to the network.  After all, nearly anyone can call or go to the front desk of a hotel and gain the hotel password.

What Can You Do to Protect Personal Information?

Authenticate the Network. Look for networks which require a password. While not completely secure, they are more secure than open networks available to everyone. Many places offer both open and password protected networks. Always use the password protected network.

Check the Website Security. Most browsing is done through HTTP or HTTPS systems, followed by the website name. The “S” is significant because it indicates the company encrypts data sent to and from the website. You can type the HTTPS before the website name to ensure you are using the secured version of the website. Many large companies like Facebook only use HTTPS. Smaller and midsize companies can often operate under the HTTPS, but do not automatically take you that route when visiting the site. SSL and the padlock image are other signs the company has taken measured to secure your purchases.

Keep Programs Updates. Apps and programs continually update software to counter the latest cyber threats. Keeping your systems operating with the latest versions reduces the risk of an attack, which includes operating systems such as windows, browsers, and any apps or plug-ins you regularly use.

Ensure You Have an Operating Firewall. You can identify your firewall status through the Systems and Security section of the Control Panel.

Turn Off Wi-Fi When Not in Use. Leaving your Wi-Fi on at all times will cause your system to automatically connect to any available unsecured network, leaving you vulnerable without realizing it. By turning it off, you must manually log into a network, giving you a chance to think about the security measures needed for the activity you do online.

Identify Public Networks. When you log on to a new network, you can flag it as public, which increases the security for your browsing. You can also manually do this from the Control Panel on your computer. Public settings turn off sharing features.

Use a VPN (Virtually Private Network). VPNs give you secure access to otherwise public networks. The programs encrypt data and can mask your IP address, making it more difficult for others to view and steal your information.

Complete Sensitive Transactions on Your Home Network. The safest time to log on to critical websites like your bank is at home, where others cannot track your online activity.

Use an Anonymous Browser such as Tor, which will let you surf the web without being seen. DNT or Do Not Track is another feature you can turn on that allows you to be on the web without companies tracking your movements through cookies, which is very common.

Only Visit Sites with Advanced Authentication. Companies use security measures to protect your data. One common method is two-factor authentications, requiring both a username and password (or two forms of identification) to ensure only authorized users can access your account. Computer recognition is another form of verification. If you log onto an account from an unrecognized computer, you are asked additional security questions to prevent account hacks.

Always Log Out. Don’t just close out the website or browser, but log off the website before moving on.

Using wi-fi when you are away from home is a reality for most consumers. You should take precautions whether you are on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, when accessing these networks and use the above precautions to ensure safe web-surfing and account management.

If you are burdened with high amounts of credit card debt and are struggling to make your payments, or you’re just not seeing your balances go down, call Timberline Financial today for a FREE financial analysis.  Our team of highly skilled professionals will evaluate your current situation to see if you may qualify for one of our debt relief programs.  You don’t have to struggle with high interest credit card debt any longer.  Call (855) 250-8329 or get in touch with us by sending a message through our website.