Sure, you’ve heard that people can “listen in” on your Internet connection when you connect to an unsecured wi-fi connection, like at a coffee shop. But what does that really mean? PC World’s Eric Geier went and found out. Turns out, an eavesdropper can get usernames, passwords, and the contents of your messages. And hijacking your accounts is a cakewalk. All you need is a wireless network analyzer, which you can get for free.
Here’s what comes up as you “sniff packets” for email information:
Note the usernames and passwords.
It’s easy to avoid this. Just look for https in your browser’s address bar whenever you are browsing from a coffee shop, and make sure it stays there. (Sites like Facebook won’t keep you in a secure session after login unless you specify it in your security settings.) For email, if you use Outlook or Thunderbird, make sure you are set up to connect to your mail server via SSL.
If you do that, you will avoid 99% of potential eavesdropping problems.