It can be tempting to take advantage of free WiFi access points in airports, hotels, or in cafes, but resist the urge to use those connections to do anything other than browse for a map or train schedule.
Unsecured wireless connections — such as the open ones that some businesses provide as a service — can also leave you vulnerable to wireless snooping of your logins, email messages, or instant messages by other travelers or guests. The same can be said for untrusted computers in hotel business centers or cybercafés, which are magnets for data-stealing malware.
If the connection doesn’t ask you to provide a WPA key, assume the connection is not secure, and treat it as such. If you must use a free wireless connection, turn off any programs that automatically connect to the Internet (such as email clients or file-sharing tools) before you hook up, and try to access sites by typing “https” at the beginning of the URL.
Lastly, please don’t use the untrustworthy PC in the hotel lobby to do anything more private than print your boarding pass to get home.
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Yeah, public PCs can be a little sketchy. That spam situation sounds like a real pain. (Love the marriage comment. Ha!).
I took a look at the "Public" computer in the office of my prior apartment building. It was not locked down at all and cursory inspection revealed no fewer than 17 varied data-stealing trojans hidden on it as well as a custom job installed by one of the apartment complex residents that was sending all the data to his apartment. It was a bit of a mess to say the least.
As to open WiFi...
You don't even have to log in. "I'm already logged into my Facebook account, so I never had to type my password. Therefore, it can't be stolen," she said, unwittingly revealing her session cookies to a sniffer in the same building who was then able to be logged in to her Facebook account as her.
If you have access to a VPN system, that is an excellent way to secure your connection.
@Kit - I use a VPN on the road if I have to connect to an unprotected connection or any connection really accept at home! ;)