Get simple answers to everyday tech questions. Find out if Wi-Fi is trustworthy, why your computer is slow, what you should do about suspicious email, and more.
- You're sitting at your local coffee shop reading the news, catching up on Facebook or updating your fantasy football roster, or hockey actually. Which reminds me, there's a game tomorrow. But is it safe to buy tickets online using the coffee shop Wi-Fi? Before I answer that, you should know what's really going on behind the scenes of public Wi-Fi. What you see are lots of devices quietly working away, getting texts, sending emails, and loading cat videos. (cat meowing) (man laughing) Okay, mostly quietly. But what your devices are really doing is yelling. Wi-Fi broadcasts through the air, it's wireless. It's like everyone in the room having a separate conversation with the same person that's trying to serve them. (bell ringing) (old timey music) - Hey Wi-Fi, can I buy a mocha? My credit card number is 414-- - Hey Wi-Fi, can you Google that really embarrassing rash that I got yesterday? - [Customer] Hey Wi-Fi, I want to log into my Gmail. - All those messages can be intercepted by someone who's actively listening. - The password is kittensarecool123. (mellow instrumental music) - If there's no password to connect to the Wi-Fi, anyone can listen in. Using a password helps cut down on the number of people listening. Still, if everyone knows the password and it's never changed. Yes, I'm looking at you CafeWifi2012. It's only a little better. Anyone else who can see the sign with the password can still hear your Wi-Fi requests and the responses you get. (bell dinging) (mellow instrumental music) (electronic buzzing) (man sniffs) (man sighing) - [Customer] Oh, my mocha. - It's kind of creepy. And yes, hackers can sniff out interesting traffic to listen for passwords, credit cards, or just to know what you're doing. They can even set up fake Wi-Fi to intercept or change what you're getting. (dramatic music) - Hey Wi-Fi. (electronic buzzing) - Hi, I'm Cafe One Wi-Fi. What can I get for you? - That was fast. The internet around here is usually really slow. Anyway, can I get two tickets to tomorrow night's hockey game, please? - Sure, that'll be $200. (alarm buzzing) - Now, I don't want to ruin trips to the coffee shop for you. The thing you need to make sure of is that your web browser is using secure communications with which whatever sites you're visiting. That's what that little lock icon is next to the website name. It means you're sending information using HTTPS so that only you and that website know what information you're sharing. (keyboard ticking) - Hey Wi-Fi, can you send this over to my bank? - Sure thing. (elevator music) (disappointed music) Fine. - This is not a bad scenario. So if it's to a site that doesn't require you to log in and there's no money attached, you're probably okay. But even then, there are some weaknesses. So is coffee shop Wi-Fi really safe? Well, I'm going to wait till I'm home to buy my hockey tickets. But cat videos? (cat meowing) All day. (mellow instrumental music)