Financial Friday: Wi-Fi Watchers

Financial Friday, Stetson University
Valrie Chambers, Ph.D., Stetson University professor
Valrie Chambers, Ph.D.

Not to sound paranoid, but strangers are watching you and, especially, what you’re doing online. Thieves know where the public Wi-Fi spots are and can use a sniffing device to see what’s happening on your network. You wouldn’t let them watch through your bedroom windows; stop them from looking at your personal online interactions with the tips below:

  • Watch for nosy onlookers. They may be trying to steal information from your smartphone, tablet or laptop.
  • Password protect your devices and sensitive apps.
  • Body block or otherwise cover the keyboard when entering passwords.
  • Use only trusted Wi-Fi networks (not public ones) to
    • Access your financial information.
    • Make purchases.
    • Send sensitive emails.
  • When using a website, check the address. A secure webpage will begin with “https:” not just “http:” Think of the extra “s” as meaning “secure.”
  • Logout after each use.
Betty Thorne, Stetson University
Betty Thorne, Ph.D.

It’s safer to turn off public Wi-Fi and enable your mobile carrier’s network or a personal Wi-Fi hotspot. You can get a personal Wi-Fi hotspot from your wireless provider, but it may cost extra.

Advanced Tips

  • If you’re uncertain but you want to access a website anyway, use an alternative browser. Switch from Firefox to Chrome, for example, when using a site you’re not sure about. This tactic protects your browsing history and passwords.
  • Create a portable router with a local SIM data card, which you can get at electronic stores and most airports.

To summarize, only use shared PCs and public Wi-Fi for low-risk activities that don’t require a login and password, like checking the news, weather or directions to your destination. Basically, only use free Wi-Fi if you don’t mind strangers watching what you are doing.


Valrie Chambers, Ph.D., is Chair of the Accounting Department and associate professor of taxation and accounting. Betty Thorne, Ph.D., is a professor of statistics and the Christian R. Lindback Chair of Business Administration. They write Financial Fridays to bolster students’ financial wellness, including preventing financial mistakes, safeguarding their assets and identity, and thinking critically about financial decisions. For questions, contact Valrie Chambers at [email protected].