Public WiFi

What is a VPN and do I need to use it?

VPN

Episode 1621

Rene from Vancouver, British Columbia

Rene wants to know if she can use a VPN to keep herself safe and still log into sites like Facebook. Leo says that a VPN is an encrypted tunnel for your traffic that masks your data as you use it. You should be able to still log in, but some sites don't support it. How about using an airport WiFi with a VPN. Leo says that's a very good place to use a VPN, but he generally doesn't use public wifi, especially in an airport. And you NEVER want to do banking or eCommerce on one.

How Safe is Public WiFi?

Firewall

Episode 1592

Mark from Los Angeles, CA

Mark hears that Public Wifi may not be safe. Is that true? Leo says yes and no. When we're on a public network, people can see our connection. We can see other people's computers in our browser. We may not be able to see everything, but a hacker can use what's called a "WiFi pineapple." So there is a potential risk. But with a secure connection via HTTPS, they can't really see anything. That's why Google is pushing hard for every website to be https. That's why it's Leo's opinion that we're mostly safe. When in doubt, just use a virtual private network while on a public wifi.

Is public wifi at a hospital safe?

Netgear AC1200 Dual Band WiFi Router

Episode 1589

Gordon from Long Island, California

Gordon is in the hospital, and wants to know if their public wifi is safe or should he use a VPN? Leo says that if it's using a wide-open network, then anyone can log in. It's a shared, public network. There are some risks, but your banking is safe because it's encrypted. The one thing to worry about is a "man in the middle" attack. Hospitals with public wifis could give the hospital the ability to watch what you do. That's when a VPN can come in handy. It will encrypt all traffic, by burrowing an encrypted tunnel to the internet. 

What is LiFi?

Lamp post

Episode 1539

Richard from Los Angeles, CA

Richard read an article about students in San Jose, who are hanging out under light poles because of something called LiFi? You can get over 225GB doing so, but it's limited to where the light can transmit. Leo says that LiFi has potential since light poles can double as access point stations for public Wi-Fi. But with LiFi, it uses light to transmit internet bandwidth.

How can I be secure on public Wi-Fi?

Tiny Hardware Firewall

Episode 1496

Jose from Ontario, CA

Jose is concerned about being snooped on when using public Wi-Fi. What can he do to protect himself? Leo says the first thing to do is turn on hard drive encryption. That will keep his data safe should his laptop get stolen. But for just being on a public Wi-Fi, VPNs can be beneficial. VPN stands for "Virtual Private Network," and all of the traffic that goes through it is encrypted. It's like a secure tunnel through the internet. Most web pages are encrypted now, though, so no one could see his activity on those sites anyway.

Am I secure on public Wi-Fi hotspots?

Typing on a computer

Episode 1140

Max from Milpitas, CA

Max has Eset's security suite and when he goes onto public Wi-Fi, it shows he's invisible to other computers. Leo says that's a good thing because public Wi-Fi is visible to anyone. Eset is probably turning on the Firewall, but he doubts there's a VPN going on here. If it's secure, he'll see the URL start with "https://." There's a move to make all internet traffic encrypted. But until that time, Max will have to remember that when he's on public Wi-Fi, he's out in the open.

(Disclaimer: ESET is a sponsor)

How can I create free public Wi-Fi?

Episode 1080

Stan from Bettsville, OH

Stan is on the local village council and wants to set up free Wi-Fi at their local parks. He doesn't know where to start, though. Leo says what Stan wants is a WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider). When cities do public Wi-Fi, they go to a company and contract with them to do it for free in exchange for advertising. So that may be an option.

Google has a program called Google Community Wi-Fi. Local companies would be better than larger corporations.