10 tips to protect yourself at Wi-Fi hotspots

Aug 29, 2006 3:42 PM


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Wi-Fi hotspots have become common at cafes, airports, restaurants and other public locations. More and more cities are creating hotspots that blanket entire metropolitan areas.

Every time you connect at a hotspot, you're asking for trouble, according to Networking Pipeline. Hotspots are open networks that do not use encryption, which invites hacking and snooping.

Not to worry: There is plenty you can do to keep yourself safe at hotspots. Just follow these 10 tips provided by Networking Pipeline:

1. Disable Wi-Fi ad-hoc mode: Wi-Fi runs in either infrastructure mode, which you use when you connect to a network; and ad-hoc mode, when you connect directly to another PC. If you've enabled ad-hoc mode, there's a chance that someone near you can establish an ad-hoc connection to you without your knowledge.

2. Use a wireless Virtual Private Network (VPN). When you're at a hotspot, anyone nearby with a sniffer can see all the packets you send and receive. This means they can see your passwords, user names, e-mail and anything you do online. A wireless VPN encrypts all the information you send and receive when you're online, so you'll be free from snoopers.

3. Use an encrypted USB flash drive: For maximum protection of your data, use a clean laptop that only has an operating system applications on it, and put all of the data you're taking with you on an encrypted USB flash drive.

4. Use a personal firewall: A firewall will protect you from anyone trying to break into your PC, and can also protect any spyware or Trojans on your PC from making outbound connections.

5. Turn off file sharing: Using file sharing at a public hotspot invites anyone to take files off your system.

6. Make sure the hotspot is legitimate: One of the latest hotspot scams is for someone to set up a hotspot themselves in a public location or cafe, and when you connect, steal your personal information, or ask you to type in sensitive information in order to log in.

7. Disable or remove your wireless adapter if you're working offline: Just because you're at a hotspot doesn't necessarily mean that you have to connect to the Internet -- you may want to work offline. If that's the case, remove your wireless card.

8. Use e-mail encryption.

9. Look over your shoulder, because sniffers and hacking techniques aren't the only way for someone to steal your user names and passwords. Make sure nobody is peering over your shoulder to watch what you're typing.

10. Don't leave your laptop alone: Need to hit the restroom? Don't leave your laptop behind. Laptop thefts are getting increasingly common at hotspots.

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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