Your phone rings and you answer it without a thought. Suddenly your day is going in a very different direction. An agent with the IRS is informing you of irregularities in your tax return and is threatening steep fines and legal action unless you sort it all out with them immediately. They ask you to verify your employer’s name, your Social Security number, annual salary, bank account numbers. You frantically gather the information to make this all go away and hope that… Wait a minute. Let’s rewind that and review what just happened.
I am writing this from an airplane. Often, when I hop on a plane—particularly for a long flight—I wait for the ascent to 10,000 feet and immediately jump onto public Wi-Fi, just as I do in coffee shops, the dentist’s office, and pretty much anywhere else I can grab a signal. But that was before I spent an hour chatting with Joe Gervais, director of security communications at LifeLock, and part-time hacker (though Gervais points out, he hacks “only for good”). The point of the conversation was to figure out when it’s okay to use public Wi-Fi, when it’s not, and what you can do instead. Here’s what I learned: