Public Wi-Fi Mobile Hotspots can be a hacker’s easiest target. Following these ten basic security tips can make the difference between safe surfing and an identity-theft or data-loss nightmare, while on mobile hotspots.
Always select the secure Network
Although many hotspots have no security set, some do. If you have a choice, select those that use some form of encryption. You can tell which networks are secured in Windows 7 by left-clicking on the wireless network connections icon, pictured here. Hovering the mouse over each SSID will display the security type. Try to avoid those networks with the security type, “Unsecured,” if possible. In Vista and XP, secured network SSIDs are displayed with a lock when you click open wireless network connections. Of course,you will need the password key to access, but some establishments (hotels are a good example, and security-conscious coffee shops do exist) provides guests with Wi-Fi passwords. In order of preference, choose networks secured with WPA2 encryption, then WPA. WEP is a better-than-nothing last resort.
Set the network location to “Public”
When you connect to a new network connection with Windows 7, the “Set Network Location” window pops-up automatically. Be sure and set the location to “Public Network” when prompted, if you’re connecting to a public hotspot. The Public Network location blocks file and printer sharing-which are common routes for data snoopers. HomeGroup is not available with this option selected and network discovery is turned off, too; all of which makes your data less visible on a wireless network.
Carry your own MiFi mobile hotspot
Don’t rely on other networks, instead get your own MiFi mobile hotspots. They are cheaper these days and have excellent coverage and performance supporting up to five WiFi enabled devices at a time. Get one and carry it where ever you go. Safer, faster and secure connection exclusive to you!
Use a VPN secure network
Antivirus software and security suites are great, but you should also harden your data defenses in case someone gets through. In Windows, hide folders that contain sensitive data—it’s easy to do: just right-click on the folder and select “Properties” and then under the “General” tab, set the folder’s attributes to “Hidden.” You will still be able to see the folder, although the folder icon will appear transparent. Then go into Windows Explorer. Click on the “Organize” button and then select “Folder and Search Options” to launch Folder Options. Click on the “View” tab and then select “Don’t show hidden files, folders and drives.” This is of course, not the strongest of security defenses, but it’s a way to make it that much harder for intruders to readily see find sensitive data.
Avoid important transactions like purchases
This is less a technical tip than a behavioral one: if at all possible, avoid doing more serious tasks like bill paying, accessing your bank account, or using your credit card when connected to public Wi-Fi. Save those transactions for when you’re connected safely to your home wireless network. Because that’s secure, right?
Avoid saving passwords
There are just so many passwords to remember. Websites and browsers are forever asking if you want to save and store passwords. A general rule of thumb: you’re probably better off not storing your username and password anywhere, especially when it comes to banking sites and the like. That goes double for road warriors who frequently connect via public Wi-Fi.
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