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Wi-Fi: What is it?

We all use Wi-Fi everyday. But what is it? What does it do and how does it work? Let’s discuss the basics of Wi-Fi and give a few tips on keeping your data secure when you’re connected to it.

The basics and history of Wi-Fi

Widely used to describe all wireless connectivity between devices, smartphones, laptops, the internet, and whole cities, the word “Wi-Fi” is actually a brand name that a company called the Wi-Fi Alliance trademarked back in 1999 to describe a specific regulated type of wireless connection. They liked how it played on the popular term at the time “Hi-Fi” meaning high fidelity. But it doesn’t mean “wireless fidelity”. Instead, it means the transmission of information using radio waves. This data is transmitted on specific frequencies and requires special hardware to translate it on your devices.

Wi-Fi is NOT the internet

It is used to connect to the internet, but it is also used to connect to public and private networks as well.

In any given place there are many networks to connect to. Some are public (or open) and some are private and require passwords and encryption. And for each network there is dedicated hardware you are connecting to and communicating with. So, although you and all your friends might be out walking around the city and you’re all connected to the internet, you are probably using several different networks to do so.

Encryption and Security

The most common types of wireless connections use devices called Routers, or Wireless Access Points to broadcast their name or SSID. But if they are private, they will also require a password to connect. Once you’re connected, your data is encrypted from the outside world. But other people connected to the same network as you are could potentially have access to your data. That depends on how much security you have on your device and what apps and websites you visit. It’s always best to be careful and use secure apps and websites no matter where you’re connected.

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