By now you’ve probably had a chance to tap into the vast network of WiFi hotspots scattered throughout the world. You’ll find them in coffee shops, airports (and even airplanes), hotels, libraries, bookstores, and many more locations. WiFi is even available in some campgrounds — you can now check e-mail and weather forecasts from the privacy of your own sleeping bag.
These WiFi hotspots allow us to access information, complete work assignments, and stay connected in places other than the home or office. We can access the Internet through our laptops, phones, or even some MP3 players or video game devices. With proper planning, you’ll never be out of the Internet’s long reach.
While the possibilities are endless, so are the security concerns. One of the best things about WiFi is that it is readily available to the public ... but that means it is also readily available to hackers. Here are a few security and performance tips to make your WiFi experience better.
Avoid crowded areas if possible. When you are using WiFi, there is a certain amount of bandwidth allotted to your station. If you are sharing the connection with several other users, your performance will suffer. Move to a less-crowded airport terminal or empty spot at a convention hall to maximize performance. You may appear anti-social, but you will be done checking e-mail before everyone else.
Remember to “unshared” documents from your computer. At home or in the office you will often need to share your files with other network users. You don’t want to share these files with strangers in the airport. You can access file sharing settings in the “Network Connections” section of the control panel. Be sure to turn them back on again when you get home.
Use secure servers for e-mail and other information sharing. You will know the site is secure if it uses “https” instead of “http” in the URL. Avoid sites that are not secure, especially those with your information. Use a Web-based e-mail service that is hosted on a secure site if you plan on e-mailing from a WiFi location.
Beware of phishing schemes designed to get you to connect to a fake network. Hackers will often host a fake WiFi connection (as a free alternative) at legitimate WiFi hotspots. Be sure to check the icon associated with the connection ... if it looks like two computers connecting rather than an antennae, it is likely a fake.
Don’t do banking from a WiFi hotspot. Unless you are stranded in Mexico, there isn’t really a need to do banking from public locations. Try to pay your bills before you leave on your trip to avoid unnecessary risks.
Be extra careful in places where you have to pay for WiFi. There’s nothing wrong with paying for Internet service, and it is often well worth the price. But when crooks know that you will be entering credit card information, they are extra vigilant. When possible, use a prepaid wireless card to pay for the charges.
As always, Computer Problem Specialists is available to help you set up a secure network or enable security features on your wireless device. Call us at (928)468-0000 for a free analysis of your situation.
WiFi should be a way to make your life easier. Don’t let it turn into a nightmare. These simple steps will ensure that you are protected while on the road.
Daniel Taft is the senior network administrator and member/owner of Computer Problem Specialists, LLC with a degree in applied computer science. His career spans more than 20 years.