Seven Steps to Safer Wireless Access

With your trusty laptop and more coffee shops, restaurants, libraries, and other public places offering free wireless access, you might be tempted to step away from your office and enjoy a change in scenery.
 
If you do decide to roam, here are some tips to make sure your leisurely afternoon reviewing expense reports at your local café doesn’t turn into an opportunity for identity theft or corporate espionage.  

  1. Before you enter the hot spot, disable ad-hoc mode to prevent automatic connections to networks.
  2. Make sure your firewall is turned on. Go to Control Panel, then Security Center in Windows XP or Control Panel, then Security Settings in Vista.
  3. Disable document and printer sharing. To find out how, click here.
  4. Password-protect your files.
  5. Don’t visit web sites where you could potentially expose a lot of personal information. Save checking your bank account balance and paying your credit card and mortgage bills until you’re at home over a secure connection.
  6. If you have a corporate VPN, don’t connect to it through a public wireless network; use a wireless card that works through your cellphone network.
  7. Beware non-password-protected networks or networks with generic names like “Linksys.” A legitimate hotspot host will have an easily identifiable name, and often a password as well. You should always check with whoever is working at the place you’re accessing the network – whether it’s a concierge, a librarian, or a barista – to confirm the network name, because copycats can easily establish similarly named networks in the hopes of duping users.

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