Be wary before logging on to free wifi services

Is it safe to connect to free Wi-Fi services? There are a couple of issues to keep in mind. First, the method with which you connect is important.

The two methods used to track your browsing are called the “man in the middle” and the “evil twin.”

The first occurs when you connect to someone’s actual computer that is sharing its Internet connection, thus “in the middle” of you and the Wi-Fi router connected to the Internet.

All someone has to do is to turn this on then use special software to track your browsing. They do this by creating an ad-hoc network whereby your computers are linked. You can turn off the ability to connect to an ad-hoc network in Windows XP: http://tr.im/vTN4. On Vista, this is off by default.

The second, or evil twin scenario, is more devious. Here a hacker looks for the name of the local wireless network and then plugs a wireless access device into the existing network. This type of connection is the default for computers, called “Infrastructure.” They then name the wireless access device with the exact same name as the one advertised by the hotel or airport. A good indication of whether you are a victim of an evil twin connection is that after connecting you aren’t asked to click an agreement about the use of the connection.
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