You know times have changed when you can get free wireless internet access at McDonald’s. But now that these wi-fi networks have popped up virtually everywhere, do you know the basics for keeping yourself and your information safe when you use them?
These public hot spots all have one thing in common—they are open networks that are vulnerable to security breaches. Because they do not encrypt data, your passwords, email messages, and other information can be visible to hackers. That means it’s up to you to be aware of wireless hot spot security and to protect yourself and your data.
Let’s take a look at a fewe things you can do to make working on wireless networks in public locations more secure.
1. Disable your Wi-Fi adapter
When you’re not at home or at work, it’s a good idea to turn off your laptop or notebook’s Wi-Fi capability when you’re not using it. Otherwise it’s possible for your computer to connect to a malicious hot spot without your realizing it. Many newer laptops now have a Wi-Fi button you can use to easily turn your Wi-Fi adapter on and off. If yours doesn’t, you can disable your Wi-Fi adapter using your operating system.
2. Try to choose more secure connections
Use a virtual private network (VPN) – It’s not always possible to choose your connection type, but Internet security is critical. When you can, opt for wireless networks that require a network security key or have some other form of security, such as a certificate. The information sent over these networks is encrypted, and encryption can help protect your computer from unauthorized access. For example, instead of using a public hot spot with no encryption, use a virtual private network (VPN). If your business does not have its own VPN, you can download and install free VPN software. The security features of the different available networks appear along with the network name as your PC discovers them.
Protect your email with https – One way to protect your email messages in public is to select the https or other secure connection option in your email account settings (if your email provider supplies one). This option may be called always use https, more secure connection, or something similar. Even if the email provider you use has a secure network, after you log on to your account on a public network, your information is no longer encrypted unless you use a more secure connection. An https connection, for example, which includes encryption, is more secure than an http connection
3. Make sure your firewall is activated
A firewall helps protect your PC by preventing unauthorized users from gaining access to your computer through the Internet or a network. It acts as a barrier that checks all incoming information and then either blocks the information or allows it to come through.
Note: Some antivirus software includes its own firewall. If your antivirus has a firewall and it is turned on, you do not need to turn on another one. Having two firewalls turned on is not recommended.
4. Keep all your software updated
You probably know that you should keep your anti-virus software up-to-date, but you should also keep all your other software updated as well. Updating your operating
system, applications, and browser plug-ins is essential to maintaining your privacy and security. Bugs or weaknesses in your software that cyber attackers can exploit are being discovered constantly. Software vendors, such as Microsoft and Apple, issue updates (or patches) regularly to correct these vulnerabilities. As a result, updating your software is a key step to protecting yourself. So you’ll definitely want to stop ignoring those prompts you keep getting to update your software.
For more wi-fi security tips check out this article from Microsoft