While I was researching for this post I relied heavily on the following FTC website:
1) Confirm the Network Name and Verify You are Logging onto the WiFi Service Provider’s webpage.
Sometimes hackers will set up a fake Wi-Fi network to attract unwitting public Wi-Fi users. If you are at your neighborhood Panera Bread, they may or may not have a wifi network named “Panera Bread”. If you Connect to a fake network you would be putting your laptop/tablet into the hands of a crook. Maybe you aren’t real sure you are connecting to the official network, ok, just ask. If you’re in a café or coffee shop, employees will know the name of the official network and help you get connected. If there’s no one around to ask, you may want to move to a different location where you can be sure that the Wi-Fi network is secure.
2) Use Two-Factor Authentication
Two-factor authentication means you need two pieces of information to log into an account. One is something you know and the other is something you have. Most often this takes the form of a password and a code sent to your cellphone.Many popular websites and services support two-factor authentication. This means that even if someone is able to get your password due to a hole in a public Wi-Fi network, they won’t be able to log into your account.To enable this feature for Gmail, log into your account and open the settings page. Navigate to the Accounts And Import tab and click Other Google Account Settings. The second section will be two-step verification, and you can click Settings to start. Enter your phone number and choose whether you’d like a text message or a phone call. Next, Google will send a six-digit code to your phone. Enter this when prompted. Now, whenever you log into Google from a new computer, you’ll be asked to verify your identity by entering both pieces of info.The login process will now take a few extra seconds when you use a different device, but you can rest peacefully knowing that your account is safe and secure.
3) Turn on Your Firewall
Most OS’s include a built-in firewall, which monitors incoming and outgoing connections. A firewall won’t provide complete protection, but it’s a setting that should always be enabled.
On a Windows notebook, locate your firewall settings in the Control Panel under System And Security. Click on Windows Firewall, then click Turn Windows Firewall On or Off. Enter your administrator password, then verify that the Windows Firewall is on.
If you are using a Mac, these settings are in System Preferences, then Security & Privacy. Go to the Firewall tab and click Turn On Firewall. If these settings are grayed out, click the padlock icon in the lower left, enter your password, then follow these steps again.
4) Use HTTPS
Regular websites transfer content in plain text, making it an easy target for anyone who has hacked into your network connection. Many websites use HTTPS to encrypt the transfer data, but you shouldn’t rely on the website or Web service to keep you protected. You can create this encrypted connection with the browser extension HTTPS Everywhere. With this plugin enabled, almost all website connections are secured with HTTPS, ensuring that any data transfer is safe from prying eyes.
5) Turn off Sharing
Turn off sharing when you are on a public network. This will keep others from accessing your computer and files. You can turn it off in the Control Panel (Windows) or System preferences (Mac OS X).Avoid logging on to banking and shopping sites where, to do so, you have to enter personal and financial information. You should only do online banking or shopping over a trusted connection, such as a home network you know is protected.
There were three other things you should be doing but I didn’t want the “Top 8”. Really though, I didn’t include these items because I shouldn’t have to remind anybody to do these things. That having been said….here they are:
First, I wasn’t going to include the Sharing tip in my top 5 because I thought everyone should know that and are probably already doing it whenever they venture out onto a Public Network. It only makes sense, you don’t want to share any of your files with the public. But if you end up on an insecure public network you will be doing just that. This may not ultimately stop a hacker but at least you won’t be offering up your data. Secondly, I would also include running your anti-virus software and making sure it is up to date. Do I really have to suggest you use an anti-virus? You should be running one anyway and keeping it up to date. I just can’t think of anything helpful to add to this tip because if you aren’t using an anti-virus app may heaven help you. You might as well be using Windows XP.
Thirdly: This leaves one last tip that I didn’t include and that is using a VPN. Virtual Private Network is the one way you can be sure you are using a secure network because that is what a VPN is. Private and secure. There are many free VPN’s available but when looking for an IT vendor I always use the adage that you get what you pay for. One provider is called Private Network Access and it runs $6.95 per month. This will give you unlimited bandwidth and multiple exit points (these allow you to choose what nation your network traffic will be routed through. VPN’s could take up a whole blog or podcast episode. Hmmmmmm, sounds like a good idea…
Bye for now,