Is is safe to visit my bank or other secure sites like Gmail if I'm using unsecured wifi?
All else being equal, that's every bit as safe as it is when using a secure network. There are some gotcha's in there, but those apply no matter where you are, secure network or not.
If you are very paranoid, there are things you can do to be certain that nothing funny is going on. First, before you login, you can check that the certificate your browser accepted is correct. Exactly how you do that depends on your browser; Google for "check https certificate" if you need to.
You can also check (again, before you login) to see that you are connected to the right IP address. That's harder as many large sites like Google use multiple IP addresses and may proxy through sites that will have different IP's in different locations - so where YOU are may determine what you connect to. Still, a bit of sleuthing with "netstat" and some lookups at sites like MXToolbox can reassure you that you truly are connecting to the site you wanted. That can be a bit of work, of course.
Is any of this absolute? No, because your entire computer might already be compromised and you can't trust anything it says. However, if that's true, you are already at risk, secure wifi or not.
Do be aware that some sites may switch you to an HTTP connection after login. Not many do that now, but you should watch for that just in case.
Finally, if the site you are visiting has two factor authentication, you are even more safe and you should enable that option if it is available.
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More Articles by Anthony Lawrence © 2015-06-18 Anthony Lawrence