The Guardian has a scary article that describes security problems when using credit cards via public wi-fi networks. I think the article is slanted a bit to make it sound a bit worse than what the real world really is, but the problem is real. Indeed, it is theoretically possible for a thief to steal your credit card number from a wi-fi network although I would suggest that such a theft is very rare. Most credit card transactions are carried out over encrypted SSL connections. As far as the security experts all know, no thief has ever been able to intercept data from an SSL connection.
Keep in mind, however, that MOST credit card transactions take place on SSL connections. There is always the possibility of an exception. Luckily, there is an easy solution: make all connections to the Internet through a secure and encrypted connection. Nobody can intercept that, except possibly the CIA, and I am certain that agency won't steal your credit card numbers.
I wrote about all this in a Plus Edition article a few weeks ago that is still available at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=15377 (a Plus Edition user name and password is required to access that article). I described several free and for-pay products that create encrypted connections for all data sent to and from Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, Mac OS X, iPhone, iPod Touch, Windows Mobile 5, Windows Mobile 6, Android, and most versions of Linux systems.
The article in The Guardian talks mostly about handheld smartphones but the risk is the same also for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux laptop and desktop computers. Luckily, there are solutions available now. Strangely, the Guardian article doesn't mention any such solutions. In fact, the authors wrote, "BT, the UK's biggest provider of such hotspots with five million of its 'Openzone' connections in the UK in train stations, hotels and airports, admitted that it has known of the weakness for 'years' and that it is working on a permanent fix. But it has no timetable for when it might be implemented." However, that paragraph ignores all the easily-installed solutions that have been available for years.
On my recent trip to England and on most every other trip I have taken in the past year or two, every single connection I made to the Internet via both wi-fi and wired connections was via a safe and secure encrypted connection. You can do the same.
You can read the article by Charles Arthur and Steve Boggan in The Guardian at http://goo.gl/2Snjz while my Plus Edition article is available at http://eogn.com/wp/?p=15377 (a Plus Edition user name and password is required to access that article).
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