Web workers continue to make frequent use of public hotspots, and the number of places where you can get free Wi-Fi in public continues to grow. In fact, business use of hotspots is growing at a seismic rate.
In this post, I’ll detail the four most important steps you can take to keep your public Wi-Fi sessions secure, and make some recommendations for free tools you can use, as well as ways you can approach your commonly used applications for optimized security.
Use a VPN. One of the most common tools that users of hotspots neglect to use is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) application. It’s ironic, because good VPN software is free, and once you’ve installed one, entering one password can put what you’re doing in a secure tunnel. I’ve posted before about my favorite solution OpenVPN, but you can find lots of other good ones for free online. OpenVPN is a long-standing open source project, and I’ve found it to be bullet-proof.
Don’t Forget the Firewall. Firewall software, for blocking hackers and other threats, exists within both Windows and Mac OS X, although many people have complaints about the firewall in Windows Vista. The firewall built into Mac OS X is actually very good. Windows users who want to find a good, free solution can go with Zone Alarm Free.
Avoid Using Internet Explorer. Sorry Microsoft, but one of the big reasons people gravitate to browsers like Firefox, Opera and Safari is that they are simply less of a target for hackers, and also have fewer exposed vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
Keep Your Logins Secure. It’s easy to disable the feature in your browser that automatically types in log-ins and passwords. In a public place do so as a best practice. In Firefox, for example, go to the Tools menu, select Options and click off “Remember passwords for sites.” Also, if you are a frequent Gmail user, sign in with the most secure URL available: http://gmail.google.com. The “s” after http wins you SSL security protection.
Of these four top tips for keeping your public sessions secure, I view using a VPN as the most important. If you are working within one, you stand nearly no chance of being hacked no matter what else you do.
What are your recommendations for keeping public Wi-Fi sessions secure?