We depend on the Internet for almost everything these days and when we’re traveling, the Internet becomes our primary lifeline to family, friends and work. Nowadays, using and having a WiFi connection when you’re on the road is almost essential.
That’s why now (more than ever), it’s important to understand the risks of using public WiFi and how to protect yourself when you’re surfing the Internet from the road.
Connecting via WiFi
It’s easier than ever to check your e-mail or browse the Internet from almost anywhere – airports, airplanes, hotel rooms, resorts, theme parks and more offer free WiFi. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just hooking up to an Internet connection.
When you log onto a public or open WiFi connection that is not secured, you’re opening your computer and privacy to a public network – and anyone with the right software can see the information you’re receiving and sending. The hacker could also infiltrate your computer and place a virus, malware or other program that would turn your computer into a drone, or botnet, allowing it to be controlled by hackers.
Using Free Public WiFi Hot Spots
Access your settings in your browser. Look for the Connections tab to locate your connection settings:
Before you Get on the Road
1. Enable SSL connections:
The best way to protect yourself when on public Wi-Fi is to use secure connections. Look for a secured connection icon in the URL bar for your browser.
Like those your bank might display, the lock icon will indicate you’re visiting a website with a Secure Sockets Layer, or SSL, connection. The SSL connection encrypts the information that is exchanged.
SSL connections are used for secured sites like banking and e-commerce but you can enable an SSL connection on many of your favorite sites:
Gmail: To enable an SSL connection from your Gmail account, click the gear icon at the top right of the browser page, click Mail Settings, select “Always Use HTTPS,” and save.
Twitter: To enable an SSL connection, go to the settings, scroll to the bottom of the Account tab, check the box for “Always Use HTTPS,” and save.
Facebook: To enable an SSL connection, go to Account Settings and click the Security tab. Now edit your Secure Browsing, check the browsing on a secure connection box. You will have to disable the SSL connection for apps like FarmVille.
2. Disable sharing: Turn off Sharing. Sharing a connect to a printer or other devices is useful at home, but leaving Sharing on in public areas opens yourself to hackers. Here’s how to turn it off:
Mac: Open your System Preferences and click on the Sharing icon. Uncheck all of the boxes to disable and turn off Sharing. To turn them back on, simply check the box for the what you use.
PC: Windows prompts your connection when you connect to a new WiFi network - is it a Home, Work or Public network? If you select Public, Windows disables sharing. Using Windows XP and 7, click the Start button and open the Control Panel.
Depending on your version of Windows, enabling and disabling Sharing varies.
Windows XP: Click on Network Connections and right-click Local Area Connection. Click Properties, uncheck the box that offers file and printer sharing. Click “OK.” Re-check the box to enable file and printer sharing again.
Windows 7: Click Network and Sharing Center, select Change Advanced Sharing Settings. Click on the arrow of the network you’d like to disable sharing on. Select “Turn Off File” and Printer Sharing. Save.
3. Turn off WiFi: If hackers can’t access your computer via a public or open network, they can’t take or affect your files. Turn off your WiFi before hitting the road.
Mac: Click the Airport wireless icon in the top right of the Apple status bar. Select “Turn Airport Off.”
PC: Right-click the wireless icon on the task bar and turn it off.
At Your Destination
1. Turn on WiFi: Follow the same steps to turn on your WiFi and select a network.
2. Log in using VPN: Fortune 500 companies use Virtual Private Network because they’re much safer than an open network. Enabling VPN encrypts your browsing and the VPN works to shield your computer too. Don’t work for a company that will provide a VPN? Buy a VPN account from a third party; acccess costs range from $8 to $10 a month. The third-party service offers the same protection and encrypts all your computer activity.
Turn off WiFi: Prevent the computer from automatically connecting to an unsecured network. Should you go to another public spot, this will.
Professional hackers are on the road every day looking for an easy target. Unless you’re learning how to programming C+++ or building secured web pages, chances are you’re not going to know what it takes to protect yourself. Follow these easy steps to protect both your data and computer.
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