Wi-Fi is a great thing. Need to duck out of the office for some “fresh air” at your local coffee shop? No problem! Chances are the coffee shop is paying for a broadband internet connection, and letting customers use it while they drink (and keep drinking!) their coffee.
You open your laptop and sign in on the coffee shop’s wifi… but is your information safe? Below are some techniques to help secure your computer and your important information. Then, when you’re signing in to Online Banking or other sites you want to keep private in places like airports, hotels, coffee shops, etc, you’ll be all set!
When you use your computer on a public network, without security, information is sent in plain text, meaning someone else who has the proper equipment can see what is being sent, can intercept it, and they’ll have access to your usernames, passwords and more! Securing your connection reduces the risk, allowing you safe access to public Wi-Fi.
Start with your computer
One of the easiest ways to begin securing your computer is to disable some of the features don’t give much attention. To start:
- Turn off automatic login to unsecured networks: Laptops now come equipped with a hardware button near the keyboard (usually on the side or near the corner) that turns off your wifi connection. Keeping it off unless you’re using wifi ensures that your wifi is only running when you want it to run! Otherwise it’s on and your computer may automatically log in to sites you don’t want to run.
On Apple laptops, go to Apple, System Preferences, click on the Network icon, and turn off wifi network options.
- Turn off sharing: When connecting to a public network, select “Public Network” when asked rather than “Private”. You will usually see a prompt that asks about your location and reminds you that unless you’re in your own home, your information may be at risk. When selecting “Public Network”, Windows will automatically disable your sharing and increase your protection!
On an Apple machine, go to the Apple menu, go to System Preferences, click on the Sharing icon, and then deselect the File Sharing option.
- Turn off Bluetooth: To turn off Bluetooth on your laptop, left click on the Start menu. Right click on Network Places. Click on Properties. Find your Bluetooth device on the list, and right click on it. Then click disable!
On Apple, go to the Apple menu, go to System Preferences, click on the Bluetooth icon, and then deselect on!
Note: If you don’t see a Bluetooth icon, you don’t have a Bluetooth enabled device and won’t be at risk from this type of connection.
- Turn on your firewall: In Windows, click on the Start menu, click on the Control Panel, click on Security, and click on Windows Firewall. Click “Turn Windows Firewall On or Off.” Click “On (Recommended)” and then click “Ok.”
On Apple, go to the Apple menu, go to System Preferences, click on the Firewall icon, and confirm that it is on – not off!
- Run an Antivirus: Always make sure that you are running an antivirus software package, whether you are using a Windows machine or a Mac machine. Antivirus software provides a number of security benefits and further protects you! For Windows users, Microsoft provides Microsoft Security Essentials a free and robust antivirus program. Since with Windows you already have access to this service, it’s the easiest to use, but there are many options out there. You might want to do a bit of research, or click the link to learn more about Microsoft’s program.
Practice Safe Browsing
A few more tips. When using public wi-fi, you’ll be further protected by following these additional steps:
- Using a hotel or restaurant wifi? Confirm the name of the network with an employee. Only use one with that name.
- When possible, use connections which are password protected.
- Always connect using an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection. This provides an added level of protection which encrypts data being sent via the internet. SSL is common for sites collecting credit card data and other personal information.
- Use two-factor authentication where possible. This may include a password/passcode, or even a special USB or token/cookie in your computer. This is usually used for access to special networks, and may not pertain to you if you’re just surfing the net or checking your Facebook account.
Really need security for access to work documents and programs?
Talk to your employer about setting up a VPN (Virtual Private Network) for remote working!
Working remotely and managing your personal finances “on the go” is becoming more and more common. Hopefully these few tips will make maintaining the security of your information easier!