How your life can be stolen at the café.

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I want to explain to everyone out there how easy it is for anyone to see your private and personal information and how they can cause havoc with it. Now we all know that this doesn’t happen very often but I can tell you that it is happening more and more these days and I know first hand from a friend, who had his identity stolen, that it can cause you a lot of grief and financial ruin for a very long time.

 IdentityTheft

Firstly I will try to explain simply how a computer uses the internet on a network so as to outline the vulnerabilities they have. When you are on the internet using Wi-Fi,  your computer is essentially communicating with your wireless router by requesting a webpage or passing and receiving information from a webpage. These transmissions are called packets so in essence your laptop is sending a packet of information to the wireless router and the router is then sending a request to the website you are on via your ISP (internet service provider), then the webpage is sending back packet of information to your wireless router and then to you. You see everything goes through the wireless router because it acts as the hub for all information with its own IP address (unique address so you can be traced) for all computers and mobile devices connected to it.

Using a wi-fi networkDangers of using free Wi-fi

Any other person who is using the same Wi-Fi network as you (wheather it is password protected of not) can also see everything in those packets of data, also known as sniffing, with just a simple program that anyone can acquire from the internet. I was going to list those programs here but I am not going to as I am trying to inform people how to be more secure on the internet rather that mistakenly show someone how to steal others information. The information in those packets of data, for the most part, is everything that you are doing on the internet. If someone is sniffing your packets they can potentially see your emails that you are reading or writing, images that you download or upload client files, contracts, usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers. They can see everything. If they have your username and passwords then they can get into that site and since so many people have the same username and password for everything then they can get into everything.  On a side note, if you don’t already use a password manager then you should. A password manager is a program that you can store all of your passwords in one place, they are all encrypted and different thereby minimizing the risk of total loss of all accountsbecause if one account is compromised. You can find some great ones here.

Some of you will notice that most websites have an http:// and a small few have a https:// before the address. The https means that it has a secure connection to the site so that the data passed between you and it is encrypted and if someone is packet sniffing in your network then they cannot tell what you are doing which is great. Be aware that there are some security flaws in many sites that use https because they are using it incorrectly. Internet browsers such as Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome all use things called cookies. Cookies act like breadcrumbs so your browser leaves a trail where you have been. This makes it easier to get back to them quicker and most times without having to log in again. This is how for example you can log into Facebook and then close the browser, then reopen it, go back to Facebook and you didn’t even have to log back in again. In the background there is a cookie set in your browser saying you were there and logged in thereby meaning your cookie also bypasses your login screen. It is also the reason why you all of a sudden start seeing ads everywhere, for a product that you recently checked out, while browsing the net normally. Google put a cookie on your browser saying you had looked at an item and when more Google ads come up it knows what ones are more likely to sell to you specifically. These cookies are the reason why some sites that use the secure https addresses are not safe because they don’t use the https to encrypt the cookies but rather the http address. This means that someone sniffing your packets won’t make sense of the information you are exchanging with the site but it can see the cookies clearly. The sniffer can then take them and put them in their browser thereby gaining access to everything you were just doing.

All of this can happen easily in any network that you are sharing with other users or home networks that have no password set or have been hacked. Information theft most commonly occurs in open networks in such place like café’s, airports, sporting stadiums, schools, universities, hotels, busses, trains, work, restaurants, Starbucks and anywhere that there is Wi-Fi. You can also be left unsecure if you are on your home network and you don’t have a password to join your network or it is a weak password.  Make sure you have the security set to at least WPA encryption although WPA2 is better, if you have WEP then it is time to change routers as this encryption is very weak and can be hacked easily. Another great way to protect your own network is to turn off you SSID broadcasting. Do you ever notice that when you come into range of a wireless network that a message will pop up saying that “so and so” network is available to join? Well you can turn that off so no one will know it the network is even there except those who have the SSID.

Using wifi in a cafeUsing wifi in an airport

Think about it for a second, someone in the same café as you or someone that just pulls up in a car next to your office or home, they can just get into your email account and read everything, copy everything, send anything, hijack your account, go onto your Facebook account. They can know every detail about your life so it is easy to steal your identity, gain access to your business files and ruin your company! The possibilities are endless as to what they can do and it is so simple for anyone to perpetrate but at the same time it is so simple to prevent this from happening.

The simple solution is to use a Private VPN (Virtual Private Network) service. They are very simple to use and fairly cheap these days. All you do is purchase a subscription to a reputable VPN service and then download their simple software, most companies software will work on all devices including Windows, Apple, iPhone and android powered devices.  Then when you want to use the internet in a place where you share the Wi-Fi or it is unprotected then you just start the program up and connect to your VPN. Once you are connected you just open your browser and go about your business normally without a worry in the world about someone sniffing your packets and stealing your information. By setting up the VPN it encrypts everything between you and it, it then handles all of the requests you want to do and then sends back the information encrypted. Private VPN’s essentially acting as a middle man so no one knows anything coming in or out of your computer except you.

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Use a Private VPN to be secure

In this day and age it is becoming more and more essential to keep your information as secure as you can because there are more and more people out there looking to steal from. It is easier for the thief especially when they no longer have to meet their victim. We have gone and found the best Private VPN services on the market to make it easy for you to make an educated decision about what one you need, or if you even need one at all. Just click here or go to the home page to see the Best Proxy Servers and Private VPN’s.


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