BBB issues warning on public Wi-Fi

File (Dino Quinzani/Flickr Commons)

A warning has been issued from the Better Business Bureau involving free Wi-Fi. More and more places such as coffee shops, college campuses, airports and hotels are offering free Wi-Fi, but that may give hackers back door access to your data, the BBB warns.

Abhishek Parulekar uses free public Wi-Fi to check websites and a few social media accounts but he has rules. “When it comes to checking stuff related to your bank accounts, I would rather not trust public Wi-Fi,” Parulekar said.

He said his friend in New York has a money app on his phone. He wasn’t even using it but was using public Wi-Fi. The bank called a few days later. “They said there was a transfer made of about $2,600,” Parulekar said. “He was hacked.”

The BBB offers tips to help keep your information secure when using a public hotspot. First, they say learn how computer encryption works. Encryption scrambles your information so it’s much harder for others to gain access to it. The BBB says make sure virus protection and anti-malware programs are up-to-date and active on your devices.

Also, if you are logging into a site, always look for “https” in the URL. The letter you’re looking for there is S, meaning the connection is secure. Avoiding certain websites while using a public hotspot is advisable. Social networking sites, as well as online banking or shopping sites may contain your personal financial data that could compromise identities if hijacked.

The BBB warns that many fake networks deliberately utilize similar names, such as “coffee_shop1” or “official airport wifi.” As a general rule, if you don’t need to enter a password for the WiFi hotspot, it’s probably not secure. To see just how easy it is to access someone’s computer, 8 On Your Side took a mobile hot spot device, logged in and turned off security. We renamed the network “Riverwalk Tampa Free.” We connected a laptop and cell phone to the non-secured Wi-Fi network. Within two minutes, someone in the area had joined our unsecured network. The BBB advises you to log-out after each session.

Also, the BBB reminds users to change passwords often and use different passwords for different sites. If a hacker figures out your password for one site, that would give them access to all sites that use that same password. Last, make sure your browser security is up to date. So, if Chrome asks you to run an update, do it.

WTHI contributed to this report. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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