Wireless access to the internet has become a necessity for many people.  A few words of caution:  free Wi-Fi can sometimes be a scam perpetrated by criminals hoping to steal your personal information.  A hacker is able to steal the information you send over the internet, including user names and passwords.  You could also have your files and identity stolen and end up with a spyware infested computer.  The attack could even leave your laptop open to hackers every time you turn it on, by allowing anyone to connect to it without your knowledge. 

Here is how the attack works:  it’s an ad hoc, peer to peer network, possibly set up as a trap by someone with a laptop nearby.  You can use the internet, because the attacker has set up his PC to let you browse the internet via his connection.  But because you’re using his connection, all your traffic goes through his PC, so he can see everything you do online, including all the usernames and passwords you enter for financial and other websites.  You cannot actually see any of this happening.  The hacker steals what he wants to or plants malware, such as zombie software, then leaves, and you have no way of tracking him down. 

How to protect your-self:  Mobile device users should make sure they have downloaded all the security updates for their operating systems.  If you function in a wireless environment on a regular basis, you are better off spending the money on a wireless card that you get through companies like AT&T, Verizon or Sprint.  This way, you have your own relatively secured wireless connection.

It pays to be vigilant whenever you are connecting to a wireless network.  If you have any doubt about the Wi-Fi connections, then don’t connect.  It is not worth the potential problems to you.