A new Firefox plugin called Firesheep makes it dead easy for both the curious and ill-intentioned to log into your accounts by spying on your traffic on an open WiFi network. Firesheep uses a technique called “sidejacking.” Github has a good technical explanation if you’re interested.

Hotels, airports, and coffee houses are all places where you're likely to encounter risky open networks. But really any network (free or paid) outside of your home or business is risky because you simply don’t know who (or what) else is swimming in the pond.

How to protect yourself

  • Use a MiFi. I usually have my Virgin Mobile MiFi with me during the day, and I always take it on trips. Not only is it way cheaper than hotel WiFi, it’s secure.
  • Tether. Most smartphones let you use them as a modem nowadays. It may be slower than WiFi, but it’s safe and secure like the MiFi.
  • Limit your time connected. Get in, get out. Limit your exposure. It’s okay to turn off your MacBook’s AirPort every now and then. I’ve done it and lived to tell about it.
  • Think, wait. Does it have to be done right now? Can it wait until you get home? Is it worth the risk?

Let me know how you protect yourself on open networks.