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The Dangers of Unsecured Wi-Fi Hot Spots

Tech Talker: Quick and Dirty Tips to Navigate the Digital World
Tech Talker



Quick & Dirty Tips

Scientific American presents Tech Talker by Quick & Dirty Tips. Scientific American and Quick & Dirty Tips are both Macmillan companies.

Last week I talked about traveling with your electronics. In that episode, I mentioned that connecting to an unsecured or unofficial WiFi network at the airport is a really bad idea. There are many reasons you wouldn’t want to do this and today I’ll explain why.

Types of Wireless Networks
Let’s look at what an unsecured network is. Generally you can call a network “unsecure” if there is no password or login credentials needed to access it. You just get on and surf the internet. These types of networks can still be found in many places, but in recent years the trend has been towards security (thank goodness).

There are generally two types of WiFi networks you can access: ad-hoc networks and traditional access point networks. Ad-hoc networks connect devices directly to one another, while traditional networks connect devices to a central router. So, for example, you can connect two laptops or your laptop and your phone together without the need for a router or any other hardware. This would create an ad-hoc network. This is different from a traditional access point network where each device connects to a router.

 

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