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Using Free Wi-Fi? Secure Your Info

October 24th, 2011 | by admin admin | in Security Advice |    4   comments

Public hotspots are certainly convenient. Pay bills while you’re at McDonald`s. Text colleagues from a Starbucks across town or across the country. And, for the past two holiday seasons, take care of last-minute business at the airport – courtesy of Google`s free Wi-Fi. Who could argue with free? Well, such convenience comes with a risk.

By definition, public hotspots are easy for anyone to access. That means you, your Aunt Betty and the hacker next door. Before you transmit your bank account number or sensitive work documents, consider: the connection you`re using is likely open, unencrypted and notoriously insecure.

There are, however, ways to protect yourself. For example, do not configure your Smartphone or other mobile device to automatically connect to any open network. When you do accept an available Wi-Fi connection, check how secure it is. Even public hotspots may have WPA2 or WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access®) encryption. If your hotel or coffee shop provides you with a Wi-Fi password, that’s a good sign.

If your laptop is typically networked at home or in the office, it may be set to enable sharing. Disable it. Windows 7 automatically prompts you to identify a new connection as a home, work or public network. Select “public network” to prevent hackers from exploring your files and data.

The most secure way to do business on a public network is to use a virtual private network. A VPN creates an encrypted, private link so that you can share sensitive information – send a business memo, pay your bills, shop online – more securely.

Even with encryption, you should invest in an up-to-date firewall from Symantec, Norton or other reputable security vendor. If a hacker does get through the firewall, don’t make it easy to find your data. You can hide or encrypt sensitive files.

For more information on how to secure your information, check out the Wi-Fi Alliance’s security page. PC Magazine also published an article on public hotspot security in September 2010.

Author: Susanna Chu

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