Originally Posted by elkhornsun
Be aware that these public Wifi hotspots are open to everyone and provide no security for any transactions. Anyone can hook into your laptop while you are connected and they can pull of any banking or credit card data and get your emails. We use the public Wifi, and this includes that at hotels and campgrounds, only for limited functions like checking gasbuddy.com.
No free lunch as the saying goes and so far it seems to be universally true in this country at least.
Even though I do not support the OP's use of commercial wifi at businesses he is not a customer of, your statement is a commonly repeated incorrect one. If you are using a legitimate free wifi connection (as opposed to a "false" one set up by scammers) you have virtually no chance of being hacked as long as you are connected to a website using HTTPS protocol.
These days every bank and credit card site uses HTTPS and so do many others including Google if you sign into an account. Your information is protected by the security created by the HTTPS protocol and it is irrelevant whether or not the wifi connection itself is open or password protected.
This misinformation is repeated throughout these and other discussion groups and is simply wrong. The only real risk is when you are using non-HTTPS websites so your casual web-surfing could be hacked (better watch what "naughty" sites you go to.
) Also, if you send email via clients such as Outlook or Thunderbird your messages are not secure, so don't ever put credit card info or anything else important into emails.
The so-called wifi hacking horror stories that get passed around the internet are virtually all the result of people using wifi that they thought belonged to a business only to discover that it had been set up for the purpose of stealing passwords, etc. When you use a wifi, for example, at Starbucks, make sure the one you connect to really belongs to the store.