By Liam T, Security Advisor, SecureTec Australasia
We all know that a Wi-Fi hotspot is great for accessing the Internet in public places such as the airport or a coffee shop. But we should all be aware that Wi-Fi hotspots can also be a security concern since a hacker can exploit the wireless access and steal personal information or files from a computer by using a remote attack.
Here are a few simple rules to follow:
Use a good Firewall to protect yourself
A good firewall will protect your PC against inbound and outbound attacks while making your computer invisible. For example, ZoneAlarm Firewall protects you by watching all the traffic that exists or enters your computer and blocks any malicious attacks from the outside.
Disable file sharing in a public area
It is recommended to disable file sharing to protect your personal information while using a public Wi-Fi hotspot. If you are using a ZoneAlarm, you will get a “New Network Detected” window. Just click “Internet” (rather than “Trusted”) and that will automatically disable file sharing. Otherwise, …
If you are running Windows XP follow these steps to turn off file sharing:
- Go to the start menu
- Access the control panel and go to “Network Connections”
- Right click on “Local Area Connection” and click “Properties”
- Uncheck File and Printer sharing and click “Ok”
In Windows Vista file sharing is turned off by default when you select your network location type as Public. If you need to change your network location type:
- Go to the control panel and access “Network and Sharing Center” on Classic View
- Click on the “Customize” link
- Set your location to the desired option
Use an encrypted public wireless network
You can check the provider's Web site in the privacy statement to see if they use network encryption and, if they do, what kind of network encryption it is. For the best protection of your personal information it is recommended that you don't send or receive sensitive information from the hotspot. If you do need to enter your personal information on a legit website make sure the website is SSL encrypted. You can tell if a website is SSL encrypted if you can see a padlock on the bottom right corner of the screen and the URL has https instead of http.
Disable your wireless network if you are not using it
If you are not doing any Internet related activities such as surfing the web or using your email it is recommended that you turn it off to reduce the amount of time that it is susceptible to attacks. You can turn off your wireless connection in the “Control Panel.”