Dear Computer Lady,
I have Cortana on my computer but haven’t configured it because I’m leery about surrendering the kind of personal security information that it requires. My wife would love to buy either Google Home or Amazon’s Echo etc. but again, I’ve resisted because I’m afraid of leaving our information and computers vulnerable. Are these services and devices safe or am I just being paranoid?
P.S. We connect our computers via a free public wifi hotspot; We live across the street from a park.
As I read your email, I was getting ready to tell you that services and devices like Cortana, Google Home and Amazon Echo are fairly safe, but it depends on your comfort level. Then, I got to the end of your message and learned that you connect through a free public wifi.
Your information and computers are more vulnerable because of that public wifi connection than they will ever be if you used Cortana, Amazon Echo or Google Home on a secure, password protected wifi network.
There are easy to use software programs available that allow people on public wifi networks to view the web pages you visit and even hijack them.
Another example is that a criminal could set up a fake wifi hotspot that looks just like the one you usually use, and if you connect through the fake one, they can then harvest your personal information, including any passwords you type.
Hackers can also use the unsecured, public wifi connection to plant malware on your computer, or cause pop-ups to appear on your computer that will trick you into installing the malware by pretending to be an upgrade.
My advice would be to get off the public wifi and invest in a secure, private connection.
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Elizabeth Boston is a Web designer, Social Media Consultant and managing editor of, “Ask The Computer Lady”.
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