Free Wi-Fi, easy passwords are risky business: Police

(Photo: Kelly Roche/QEW South Post/file)
(Photo: Kelly Roche/QEW South Post/file)

BY KELLY ROCHE
Free Wi-Fi can end up costing you thousands, security experts and Ontario Provincial Police warn.
“We can’t stress enough how important it is to create, use and regularly change strong passwords and to take all steps necessary to safeguard your information when you are connected through any Wi-Fi hub,” said OPP Insp. Lisa Taylor.
“At the very minimum, make sure that any site you interact with uses HTTPS rather than unencrypted HTTP connections.”
October is International Cyber Security Awareness Month, and police say there are plenty of ways to prevent becoming “an unwitting victim” of cybercrime.
It all starts with passwords — using a weak one while on a free Wi-Fi network can make your device more susceptible to cyber theft.
Passwords can be strengthened by including a variety of symbols, letters and numbers.
Police suggest using a minimum of eight characters with a combination of upper and lower case letters and at least one number.
Memorize passwords and don’t store them on your computer or mobile devices, OPP add.
Identity thieves are all about Wi-Fi hotspots.
Unless you’re using a secure web page, never send or receive private information when using public Wi-Fi, say police, and avoid making financial or corporate transactions on these networks — wait until you can use a hard-wired connection.
Keep in mind, free Internet access points are sometimes established for malicious or deceitful purposes and are purposely named to imitate trusted access points.
This access point may even indicate a higher signal strength than the legitimate one, police warn.
“The next generation of criminals have a well-established home in cyberspace,” said Deputy Commissioner Rick Barnum.
It’s “incumbent upon all of us to do whatever we can to protect our identities and information from those who will exploit that information for criminal gain without hesitation — regardless of where they or you are located.”
If you or someone you know suspects they’ve been a victim of cyber crime, contact your local police service, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, report it to the OPP online or through Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
@qewsouthpost

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