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Every Wi-Fi connection is vulnerable to an unprecedented security flaw that allows hackers to snoop on Internet traffic and potentially access your personally identifiable information and passwords, researchers revealed recently.

The vulnerability is the first to be found in the modern encryption techniques that have been used to secure Wi-Fi networks for the last 14 years.

In theory, this kind of an attack – dubbed the Krack attack – allows a hacker within range of a Wi-Fi network to inject computer viruses into Internet networks, and read communications like passwords, credit card numbers and photos sent over the Internet.

But, if you use public Wi-Fi networks, there are steps you can take to safeguard yourself.

Hackers position themselves in the vicinity of the connection point and users – like in a coffee shop – and, taking advantage of this flaw, the attacker can inject the malicious code to access e-mails, searches and credit card information.

With this information, a hacker may be able to access some of the target’s information easily.

Many hackers also use unsecured connections to send out malware. For those who allow file sharing, it is easy to be infected.

As public Wi-Fi becomes more common, expect to see hackers step up their game, too. Security issues increase, but this does not mean that people should not use any free connections. It is simply a reminder of the available safeguards and the importance of using them.

Some tips

Always use a VPN – A virtual private network serves as a buffer between the Wi-Fi connection and the mobile device or computer. Any transmitted data is then encrypted and becomes too much work for the hacker to attempt to figure out. Use a trusted and reputable VPN provider. While some providers charge a fee of around $10 or more for monthly service, others are free.

Use SSL connections – Although most people are not as liable to use a VPN, they can easily add encryption to communications by enabling the “always use HTTPS” feature on a computer or mobile device. This ensures a secure connection to sites, and it is vital for any site where financial credentials are entered. You can check by looking for the little padlock in the top left of the screen by the address bar.

Turn off automatic Wi-Fi when it is not in use – When a phone or laptop is not connected to Wi-Fi, an automatic search will still transmit some data while looking for available networks. To stay safe, disable Wi-Fi after finishing.

Try not to connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks These are often seen in hotels, coffee shops and other public spaces. You can tell if a network is secure by the little padlock next to it when you’re selecting the network.

Secure your home Wi-Fi The best thing you can do is update your router and devices like smartphones and PCs. Check who makes your router and try their website to find out how to patch it. Updates may not yet be available. Microsoft, Google and Apple have issued or plan to issue updates.