How can I keep my wireless system safe while I am using a hotspot connection?

That is an excellent question, especially since we went over getting connected at a WiFi hotspot yesterday. Of course, the next thing you would need to know is how to keep your system safe while you’re there. Keeping safe and secure at a hotspot is similar to keeping safe while using your computer at home, but there are a few other factors you should keep in mind. There are always more risks when you’re out in a public place and depending on how many people are sharing the same hotspot with you, there could be even more trouble.

Below is a list of security tips that you should follow when using a public hotspot.

  • You need to make sure you are connecting your system through a legitimate access point.
  • You should always encrypt your files before you transfer them or e-mail them.
  • If possible, use a virtual private network.
  • Always have your personal firewall up and running.
  • As you already probably know, make sure you are always using your antivirus software.
  • Perform regular updates on your operating system.
  • Take some time to look around the hotspot location and just be aware of the other people around you who are using their computers as well.
  • It’s best to just use Web based e-mail programs while you’re there. Also, make sure they use secure https.
  • Go ahead and turn off your file sharing. This is probably one of the first things you will want to do.
  • Create a password for your system and also place passwords on important files.

Just for further information, there have been some reports of some WiFi phishing attacks and some of them are called “Evil Twin” networks. With this, hackers are able to place access points within hotspots to hijack traffic. Recently, a new twist has been added where a fake login screen appears on your computer. It looks exactly like the real thing, so the user has no idea what’s happening. This is where the phishing attack comes in, because this gives phishers access to your passwords and credit card information, as well as, load viruses and spyware onto your system. They can also capture everything you type and display it over the Internet.

If you go to a hotspot where you have to pay to use the wireless connection, make sure you only type your username, password, credit card information or anything else that’s personal to you into a secure Web site. If the Web site you are visiting has an “https” in front of the Web address, it is secure. It should also show a little lock icon at the bottom of the page to let you know it’s safe.

Just follow the above precautions to keep yourself safe. Most importantly, just make sure the hotspot area you are in is legitimate. You can find lists of hotspots online if you do a search for your area. If anything seems fishy about the hotspot you are at, it’s just best to move to another one. In the case of wireless Internet, always go by the rule of “It’s better to be safe than sorry.” If you are careful with your system and keep it protected, you should have no problems!

~ Erin