Wireless hotspots are changing the face of the modern work (and play) day. These WiFi enabled areas can be found everywhere from libraries and coffee houses to commuter trains and airports. And because you can access them from any mobile device, including laptops, netbooks and smart phones, they’re quickly becoming a staple of information access.
But public WiFi hotspots have something else in common besides accessibility and popularity – they’re notoriously vulnerable to hackers. Because they’re open networks, they do not encrypt data. This makes them prone to security breaches, making your information visible to prying eyes. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should give up public Internet browsing. It’s simply up to you to protect your data and be aware of possible flaws in hot spot security.
Remove Sensitive Data
If you’re working with extremely sensitive data, your best bet might be to remove it from your portable computer unless absolutely crucial. There are password protected websites that will allow you to access the information when necessary, which might be a better option for those that do a lot of work from remote locations.
Disable the WiFi Adapter
Many laptops now include an external WiFi switch, which allows you to turn off your wireless capabilities when you’re not at home. If you’re not using the internet, it’s a good idea to disable your WiFi adapter. This way, it can’t connect to an untrustworthy hotspot without your consent. If your computer isn’t equipped with an external WiFi switch, you can still disable your adapter through the computer’s operating system.
Ensure You’re Using a Firewall
Never use your laptop or netbook at a public hotspot without enabling a firewall. This protects your portable PC by preventing access from unauthorized users. Think of it as an actual wall that blocks things from penetrating your information. Most antivirus software comes with a firewall, so ensure that it’s turned on before leaving.
Choose Secure Connections When Possible
Finally, try to stick to networks that require a password, or that have a certificate. This makes them more secure than completely open networks, which have no encryption at all, allowing unauthorized access. Consider downloading an app that helps you locate local hotspots. You might be surprised to find there’s a safer option nearby