How a Wi-Fi Hacker Snoops on Your Laptop and Mobile

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You have likely heard of the dangers of using unsecure public Wi-Fi, so you know that hackers are out there snooping. It is pretty easy to hack into a laptop or mobile device that is on a public Wi-Fi connection with no protection. Hackers can read your emails, steal passwords, and even hijack your website log ins.

Let’s imagine that you are in a local coffee shop with your laptop. All someone has to do is download a wireless network analyzer, which usually has a free trial, and with the right hardware and additional software they can often see what everyone is viewing online…unless they are protected. In some cases they can also read your emails that are going out and received, as well as texts you might be sending. Scary, right?

Tips on How to Use a Wi-Fi Hotspot Safely

You now know what you are up against when you connect to a public Wi-Fi spot, but you should also know that you can use them with some safety in mind. Here are some tips:

  • When you log onto a website, only use an encrypted connection. This means use the URL that begins with HTTPS, not HTTP. Keep an eye on that as you move from page to page because some sites will send you to an unsecured page, which makes you vulnerable.
  • There are also many websites out there that will allow you to encrypt your browsing session automatically. Facebook, for instance, has this. To turn it on, go to your “Security” settings on the site, and then enable “Secure Browsing.”
  • If you are going to check your email, login to your web browser and then ensure that your connection to your email client is encrypted. (Check by looking at HTTPS). If you are using Outlook, or another email client, make sure that your settings are set for encryption.
  • Don’t use any service that is not encrypted when you are on a public Wi-Fi connection.
  • Consider using a VPN when you are connecting to a public Wi-Fi connection. There is a small fee for this, but it’s well worth it.
  • Beware of “evil twins” which are rogue networks designed to mimic legitimate networks. Example “ATT WiFi” my be “Free ATT WiFi”. Other than downloading special software that detects evil twins, the best case is to ask someone who’s knowledgeable as to which network is the safest.
  • If you are on a private network, make sure you realize that they are also vulnerable. Anyone who knows how can spy on the network. Again, use WPA or WPA2 security so the connection is encrypted. However, if someone guesses or knows the password, they can still spy on any device that is connected

ROBERT SICILIANO CSP, is a #1 Best Selling Amazon author, CEO of, the architect of the CSI Protection certification; a Cyber Social and Identity Protection security awareness training program.


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Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

Thanks for the advice. We are very careful about security. In fact it is hard to be too careful.

Jan 30, 2020 01:54 PM #5
Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
The right Charlotte REALTOR!

Good to know Robert. I rarely use hotspots because I know how vulnerable they are to hacking.

Jan 30, 2020 02:08 PM #6
Kathy Streib
Room Service Home Staging - Delray Beach, FL
Home Stager - Palm Beach County,FL -561-914-6224

Hi Robert- I don't use public wi-fi anymore because of this. But I know I am still vulnerable. 

Jan 30, 2020 07:46 PM #7
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Robert Siciliano - Thank you for your gifts of knowledge you so generously share. I for one (and probably many) thank you!

Feb 01, 2020 12:57 PM #8
Fred Griffin Tallahassee Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

Hi, Robert. 

      Aside from the hackers, I have found that using hotel wi-fi is the best way to pick up malware.  They get through every layer of security that I have on my computer.  I finally quit using "free" hotel wireless.  Today, I use my smartphone as a wireless hotspot.  That seems to have solved the problem.

Feb 01, 2020 05:01 PM #9
Tom Bailey
Margaret Rudd & Associates Inc. - Oak Island, NC

Thanks for this post Robert! Is a cellular connection safer? I have been told that it is

Feb 01, 2020 06:23 PM #10
Catherine Ulrey
Keller Williams Capital City - Salem, OR
Equestrian and Acreage Property Specialist

I swear if it weren't for this job, I wouldn't use any technology.

Feb 01, 2020 08:15 PM #11
Michelle Enciso
Pikes Peak Dream Homes Realty - Colorado Springs, CO
Exceptional Service for Exceptional People

Wow, interesting and very helpful read. Thank you. This is definitely gonna help me change some of my practices when in the public. 

Feb 01, 2020 08:33 PM #12
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

It does seem pretty common but doesn’t seem to bother many people I meet these days.

Feb 01, 2020 10:37 PM #13
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Michelle Enciso You can never be too careful when the WiFi Isa wide open.

Feb 01, 2020 10:39 PM #14
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

I think it’s all par for the course. You can get a little bit nuts if you let yourself. Love and light.

Feb 01, 2020 10:47 PM #15
Shirley Coomer
Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living - Phoenix, AZ
Realtor, Keller Williams Realty, Phoenix Az

Thank you for the information. I think we all know the public sites are not safe, but for many, the "free" option is too hard to pass up.

Feb 02, 2020 05:27 AM #17
Jerry Lucas
ABC Legal Docs LLC - Colorado Springs, CO
Mobile Notary Colorado Springs, CO Notary Training

Old Wi-Fi technology using Wired Equivalent Privacy WEP, since 1997, or Wi-Fi Protected Access WPA (aka WPA1), since 2003, uses weak RC4 (Rivest Cipher 4) encryption, is not secure, and should not be used.

WPA2, using strong Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), is more secure, but it is old technology, used since 2006, with some known security weaknesses.

WPA2 is being replaced by stronger security in new WPA3 devices, announced January 2018.  When upgrading Wi-Fi routers, smartphones, tablets, and PCs, look for WPA3 support, often found along with fast Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax).

WPA3 has backward compatibility to support WPA2 devices during the technology transition until all devices are migrated to WPA3. But the strongest security is achieved when using all WPA3 devices, not mixing WPA3 with WPA2 devices.

WPA3 includes encryption security features for use at public locations, known as Wi-Fi Enhanced Open networks.

5G cellular is also being introduced that will provide a high-speed secure connection without using Wi-Fi.

Meanwhile, use long strong random passwords and SSID names, avoid using public Wi-Fi, and turn off Wi-Fi SSID broadcast on your router.  Also, use two-factor authentication where available.

Feb 03, 2020 09:54 PM #23
Ron Aguilar
Continental Mortgage - Saint George, UT
Mortgage & Real Estate Advisor since 1995

What are the 4 anonymous posts above?

Feb 04, 2020 06:53 AM #30
Gail Smith-Bibb
Gwen Fowler Real Estate - West Union, SC
A tradition of trust

Hey Robert

There is a war going on out there that to few people know is going on. And it is a 24 hour a day fight. Thanks

Feb 04, 2020 07:16 AM #31
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Great advice here and some good suggestions to stay safe. I never use a public Wifi.

Feb 05, 2020 09:36 PM #32
Dinah Stallworth-Lewis
Priority Real Estate LLC - 318.332.8281 - Natchitoches, LA

Good Morning,Robert Siciliano

These are excellent tips!  Thanks for sharing.  

Feb 06, 2020 05:10 AM #33
Laura Filip
Laura Filip Broker , Opening doors for All Seasons of Life - Whitesboro, TX
What can we do for you today?

Thank you for sharing the tips on how to remain secure in the internet world. We sometimes do not think of the phone being hacked but it sure can be. 

Feb 06, 2020 10:17 AM #34
Wayne L. Brown
Franklin Advantage Inc. - Alpine, CA


This is downright Scary.

Thanks for the heads up.

Feb 06, 2020 12:05 PM #35
Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP
Selling Homes Changing Lives

Robert Siciliano - You always raise my awareness. I was in Austin, TX for about a week. I like to visit my favorite Coffee Shop a couple miles aware from the Convention and Hotel. This time when I got there, I noticed College Students. All were on their smart phones or Lap Tops. A few (just a very few) had a coffee cup on their tables. It made me think about you and wonder, how many hacks are done a day inside what seems like a safe place to grab a cup of cofee, have lunch, or meet up with friends. 

Feb 16, 2020 05:40 AM #36
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