Wi-Fi was born to be convenient—but not secure. More than anything, though, it depends more on what kind of wireless we’re talking about.
Public. Free, unsecured Wi-Fi is the least secure. Shared Wi-Fi in public, at home or in the office lacks encryption of the data packets streaming from the connected devices. In other words, your data is unlocked and free for the picking. Is the threat of data or identity thieves widespread? You bet. Your local coffee shop or airport could easily (and probably does) have a hacker sniffing out data for fun or profit.
WEP. Home or office Wi-Fi with Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) encryption offers minimal security. This encryption is 15 years old and has since been compromised to the point where it’s basically useless. As a result, newer routers aren’t even equipping routers with this antiquated security.
WPA. Home or office Wi-Fi with Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption is better than its predecessor, WEP. WPA is a certification program that was created in response to several serious weaknesses researchers found in WEP. WPA and WPA2 are tougher to crack, but not impossible.
Mobile 3/4G. Mobile broadband has a degree of encryption that has been cracked, but the necessary hardware isn’t widely deployed by criminals. Researchers have demonstrated how the system can be hacked, but it’s still more secure than other options.
Cover all your bases by installing Hotspot Shield. A free, ad-supported program, Hotspot Shield VPN protects your entire web surfing session by securing your connection, no matter what kind of wireless you are using—whether you’re at home or in public, using wired or wireless Internet. Hotspot Shield does this by ensuring that all web transactions are secured through HTTPS. It also offers an iPhone and Android version.
Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft expert consultant to Hotspot Shield VPN. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.