#CyberFLASH: Free Wi-Fi not good ‘cyber hygiene’, says former Homeland Security chief

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OTTAWA – Former U.S. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff has a handful of golden rules for what he calls good Internet hygiene. And the first is simple: don’t use the free Wi-Fi.

The data that people send across the Wi-Fi connections in hotels, coffee shops, or airport lounges is easily captured by others, including criminals or business competitors, he says.

Chertoff’s other advice: make your passwords more secure; be careful using those handy thumb drives; don’t open email from people you weren’t expecting to hear from; and think twice about bringing your regular tablet or mobile device with you to a foreign country where you’ll be using the Internet.

Chertoff offers high-level versions of that advice through the company he’s been running since his term ended in 2009 at Homeland Security — the department created after the 9-11 attacks to prevent a repeat terrorist attack on the U.S.

Chertoff is in Ottawa this week as part of an international commission studying the future of the Internet.

The Global Commission on Internet Governance is holding two days of meetings and has as its members some notable international figures such as Chertoff. The commission is led by former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister Carl Bildt.

The commission was formed two years ago by two think tanks: the Waterloo, Ont.-based Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and Britain’s Chatham House.

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