Tuesday, 12 July 2011
How to stay safe on public wifi.
I am on holiday at the moment and so I have taken my laptop,a Netbook with me. Many hotels and coffee shops have public wifi that you can connect to the Internet on. But there are steps that you need to take.As public wifi is less secure than your own wifi or wireless broadband at home. One alternative is to use your own mobile broadband. I have T.Mobile pay as you go broadband,which I can use when I take my laptop outside my home. But even with mobile broadband you still need to take the same steps, to keep your laptop safe. When using it in a public place such as an airport,hotel or a coffee shop. To do this you need to change some settings on your laptop or Netbook before you connect to public wifi.
First connect to the wifi provided by the coffee shop or hotel. Or if you prefer,your own mobile broadband network. On Windows 7 and Windows Vista you will get a pop up from Windows. That will ask you if you want to set your network to,home,office or public network. Select public network, and once you choose this,Windows will automatically turn off network discovery and file and printer sharing.
Network discovery is where you can see other computers on your network,your Internet connection. This is fine if you are in your own home. And this will show your other computers in your household that are connected to your network. Which is your home broadband. But in a public place,you don't want anyone to see your computer on the hotel's network or see any of your files or folders on your computer. As someone can hack into your computer. Remember that in a hotel which has hundreds of people staying there, and connecting to the hotels wifi. Which is their wireless network connection,everyone will see your computer on the network and see your personal files.If network discovery and file and printer sharing is not turned off. So you MUST TURN OFF both network discovery and file and printer sharing.
If your laptop is set to public network you can change the settings to turn on network discovery and file sharing if you want. But this is not advisable because of the risk of someone being able to hack your computer. You can also turn off network discovery and file and printer sharing, if your computer is set to home network or office network as well.
On Windows XP there is no option to set your computer to home or public network,when you connect to the Internet on wifi. But you can still turn off file and printer sharing and network discovery. So if you are using Windows XP,you must make sure that both network discovery and file and printer sharing is turned off. The same way you would in Windows 7 and Windows Vista.
And if you are using your mobile broadband, you should also set your network to public network,not home network,if you using your laptop in a public place. And turn off all file and printer sharing.
There is one other important thing you need do. And that is to make sure your email account settings are set to ALWAYS USE HTTPS. This is because there is a risk that a hacker can get into your email accounts if https are not enabled. On most email accounts https are enabled by default. But if you are using G.Mail they may not be. So you need to log into your G.Mail account, and change the settings to always use https. Once you have done this in G.Mail,if you are using G.Mail notifier,you must download a patch file. To change the settings in G.Mail notifier,to enable it to work with the new http settings. This is just a zip file that you download and extract. And this then adds a new key to the registry. More information about that can be found on the home page of G.Mail notifier.Where you can also download G.Mail notifier and the patch file.
A lot of computer experts advise you to use an anti virus program but Windows is a very secure operating system. And I myself do not use any anti virus programs on my computers. And I do not intend to install any anti virus software in the future. But an anti virus program will not stop your computer from being hacked anyway. If it did happen. But if you turn off network discovery and file sharing,that will help protect your computer. And it is true that public wifi is less secure than home broadband. And many hotels,coffee shops and other places do not bother to set their wifi networks up with a secure password. Or if they do, they use a password that anyone can guess.
It is also a good idea to lock your laptop with a password when you take it out of the house or on holiday with you.And you can always take the password off of your computer when you get home.
On Windows you do not have to have a password if you do not want one on your User or Administrator account. Unlike on Linux where you are forced to have a password. But if you want to create a password for your Windows account you can do. And you will have to use it every time you start or lock your computer to log in with. A password will stop anyone else from turning on and using your laptop or Netbook,except you of course. And if you are staying some where like a youth hostel where you share a room with other people, You will want to make sure that nobody can access your laptop.
Having a password on Windows is entirely optional and you can remove your password any time,and go back to having no password again if you want to. I do not have a password on my computer but I keep my suitcase locked at all times. And the "do not disturb sign" is permanently on the door outside my hotel room so that the cleaners won't come into my room. And that is a good idea if you have got your laptop in your hotel room.
Taking your laptop or Netbook with you when you go away from home is much better than using Internet cafes. And you will be able to use all of your web browsers and chat messengers, like you do at home. Although the Internet connection on public wifi may be slower than what your home broadband is.
And by following the above safety measures your laptop will stay safe from hackers and viruses.