With the number of public Wi-Fi hotspots estimated to increase by 350 percent over the next four years, and with more wireless hotspots becoming unencrypted, it is increasingly important to browse safely. The folks over at Black Diamond Technologies recommend the following six steps to ensure a safer browsing experience.
1. Confirm the right network name
Hackers are known for creating network names similar to their location’s legitimate network name—a rogue Wi-Fi network. When a user inadvertently joins the rogue network, the hacker intercepts all data between the user and the network. These locations usually have better connections because everyone else is on the real network. Be sure to confirm with the barista, airline attendant, hotel clerk, etc. what the exact network name is.
2. Use encrypted websites
You can’t always assume a public network is going to be sure. This simple trick will prevent eavesdropping and securely identify the web server you are connecting with. Before going to a website, enter https:// before the site address and you’re ready for safe and secure browsing. Using encrypted websites are especially important for those that require a login and password.
3. Avoid activity involving sensitive information
Activities such as looking through company e-mails, checking your online bank account and shopping online pose a number of risks if your sensitive information falls into the wrong hands. Hackers can intercept passwords and credit card numbers to use for their own gain.
4. Turn off automatic sharing
If you have Wi-Fi automatically enabled, you might not be aware that you are connecting to an unsecure network. 85 percent of users understand that automatic sharing should not be enabled when using public Wi-Fi, but only 62 percent of users actually have sharing features turned off. Make sure you turn off file and printer sharing, as well as network discovery and Public folder sharing. Turning off network discovery prevents others from seeing your machine on the network, which makes you less of a target. In Windows, open your control panel and browse to Network and Internet -> Network and Sharing Center, then click Choose Homegroup and Sharing Options -> Change Advanced Sharing Settings. In Mac OS X, go to System Preferences -> Sharing and make sure all the boxes are unchecked. Also, be sure to turn Wi-Fi off when not in use.
5. Keep your operating system (OS) and security software updated at all times
You know those frequent pop-up operating system and security software updates you usually postpone or put off all together? Allowing these to install and restart your machine ensures that you have the newest security patches deployed to help defend against hackers.
6. Ensure that your firewall is turned on and updated
Having a firewall program running on your machine is your first line of defense against malevolent attacks. A firewall is a set of policies, or rules, based on what type of data is allowed to enter. A more effective firewall sets rules on what type of data is allowed to exit. Make sure it is updated and test it for best results.