How to safely use public Wi-Fi hotspots while holiday shopping


If you’re on free public Wi-Fi while out holiday shopping, be sure to add a little ho-ho-ho to that Wi-Fi hotspot with these security tips.

The thought of shopping at a mall during the busy gift-buying season between Black Friday and the end of the year keeps some shoppers at home, in full online shopping mode, just waiting for the delivery man to ring the doorbell.

Other savvy shoppers like to combine tech and tinsel. They can’t wait to enjoy the full holiday mall experience. And although they’re taking in the holiday decorations and treating themselves to a peppermint hot chocolate, that doesn’t mean they’re not also online comparing prices, updating wish lists and emailing Aunt Marge to see what size Christmas sweater to get Uncle John this year.

But only some shoppers may know that grinches sometimes lurk on public Wi-Fi hotspots waiting to eavesdrop on the private information being shared by people not using a VPN, or virtual private network. Learn how to add some ho-ho-ho to your Wi-Fi hotspot while holiday shopping.

Be wary of free Wi-Fi hotspots in malls
Maybe your local mall offers free public Wi-Fi. Before you connect, consider the risk. Just because Wi-Fi is free doesn’t mean it’s secure. Unless the mall management company has a security or IT expert on staff, the Wi-Fi may not have been set up as securely as it could have been. It’s not easy to know how safe a public Wi-Fi hotspot is, even when offered by a trusted company. One way to make sure your private information stays that way on public Wi-Fi is to use a VPN. Virtual private networks, like Norton Secure VPN, create a secure tunnel for any data that travels to and from your device on a public network. With a VPN, you can check your credit card balance and your online wish lists without worry.

Don’t snooze on Wi-Fi safety during your coffee break
If you take a break from shopping to treat yourself to a holiday coffee while comparison shopping online, you might be tempted to use the coffee shop’s Wi-Fi. Before you connect to the café’s public hotspot, be sure you’re on the real network. Hackers can create their own rogue hotspots with similar-sounding network names to trick unsuspecting surfers and gain access to the information sent and received over the network. Always verify the Wi-Fi network name with a shop employee and use a VPN to help protect your information.

Free café Wi-Fi could also be a prime way for hackers to eavesdrop on people who connect to the free Wi-Fi. Hackers deploy Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks accessing unsecured or poorly secured public Wi-Fi routers. Hackers scan these routers looking for weaknesses such as default or weak passwords, or security holes due to poor router security configurations. Once a vulnerability is found, the hackers then set up tools programmed to spy on transmissions, intercept data that is specifically targeted as valuable — such as online retailer login credentials — and capture the information to access those accounts.

Add some ho-ho-ho to your holiday Wi-Fi hotspot use
Although online security may be at the bottom of your to-do list during the holidays, being aware of the risks of using public Wi-Fi hotspots will go a long way toward keeping your holiday shopping experiences merry and bright. Using a VPN can help you cross worrying about hackers off your list.

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Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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