Update November 2020 – still current
WiFi is a love hate relationship to me. On the love side, it is very convenient but on the hate side it is not very secure – unless you put some effort in to make it secure.
One of the things that concerns me about WiFi is the potential to accidentally turn your laptop (or PC) into a “router“. It is possible to connect a network cable to the non-WiFi NIC and at the same time connect the WiFi NIC wirelessly to a different network. This can severely compromise your network security so the best thing is to switch off the WiFi when you are using ethernet (Wired Network)
On no account use WiFi or mobile data for Internet Banking or other “sensitive” sites until you have secured your WiFi router and have installed VPN software. This is now out dated advice due to HTTPS.
WiFi is soooo convenient when you can get a good signal but making it secure is a nightmare. Speaking as an IT Pro who had to look after “Road Warriors” who need to connect using WiFi and 3G and then have to connect to the company network when they are back in the office; making laptops secure is a bit of a challenge. It’s a lot easier when the “user” is IT savvy but unfortunately most are not. If you need to use WiFi, try to use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection, this is not perfect but it will greatly reduce your risks when using WiFi. Very simplistic but try to think of using WiFi as being akin to listening to the radio, it is after all a “radio” type of service. Everything that you do on WiFi is available for all and sundry, that are in range, to “see” so when you type in a password anyone can grab that information with just a very basic knowledge. To make WiFi easy to use, public hostspots have the very minimum of security which means that quite often you could be connecting to a rogue laptop pretending to be a “public hotspot” and all the information exchanged between your laptop and the website you think you are connected to is being captured.
If you have a home WiFi router, you can do a fair bit to increase the security of WiFi and it doesn’t take much effort, this would involve using encryption like WPA or WPA2 and strong passwords, there are few other things that you can do and I’ll add these at some stage. The use of a VPN can reduce your security risk as all the information passed between your laptop and the other end is in a virtual tunnel and all the Data in encrypted so unless anyone has some sophisticated equipment, it would be very difficult to “see” what information is being exchanged between your laptop and the other end.
Connecting via WiFi is now probably the most used method, along with “Mobile data” (e.g. 4G etc) for laptops, tablets and many desktops because it is so convenient. I’m amazed that a lot of people don’t even know what Ethernet is or why you would need to connect a cable to access the Internet!
To summarise :-
1. Don’t use WiFi or 3/4 G for Internet Banking unless you use a VPN (Now sort of outdated due to HTTPS)
2. Make sure your home WiFi router / WAP is secured and has a strong password.
Stay alert, keep safe.