How secure is free WiFi?

by techtiptom

Originally posted on on 01/21/2010:

How secure is free WiFi?

Most free WiFi (Starbucks, etc) is unencrypted which means traffic can be picked up and read by packet sniffers. If you connect to a secure site (https web site, vpn, etc), it is as secure as the encryption used for the connection (usually pretty good).

Some free WiFi may use WEP or WPA but that’s very unusual (but more secure). WEP has its own security issues (part of the reason WPA came about) and might be even less secure if the interceptor knows the WEP key. WPA is more secure – how much more depends on how it is configured (single WPA key everyone knows or WPA key unique to machine (whether pre-distributed or machine distributed on-demand)).

While there is encryption usually on these networks, it is a minimum implementation and easy to break. Always assume when using a public access point that not only can people see your network traffic, that they can also see your machine and attempt to hack into it.

If you are doing that kind access on a regular basis, invest in personal firewall software. I personally like ZoneAlarm, but there are many to choose from.

So, where are the free W1Fi spots in central Indiana?

Go to for the latest listing. Some sites in Indianapolis include Abbey Coffeehouse, Buffalo Wild Wings, CiCi’s Pizza, Claude & Annies, Indianapolis Public Library’s, Panera , etc.