Getting online is now a vital part of everyday life, for the most part mobile connections using the 3G network are enough for you to check your twitter stream of check your email on your phone, but when you need to get some real work done you need to get your laptop and you need WiFi.
The good news is that public wireless has gone viral, you can get it in almost all restaurants, pubs and coffee shops, the problem is that most people get giddy when they see an available open hotspot, the prospect of a fast, free connection is like a bag of sweets to a child.
Risks – I can read your email
Think about this, when you connect to wireless in the office you trust the computers and devices around you, IT policies, anti virus software and firewalls are protecting you from the evil world around, connecting in public is a different story, in most cases you know nothing about the security on the network or who is around you, you can’t trust the other devices or people. Many of the applications you use transfer data in the open meaning that people sat around you can read your data, connect to your machine and at worst infect you.
How do I protect myself?
At the very least you should have a good firewall product installed on your laptop, importantly it needs to be correctly configured to block connections on public networks, so many people I see have a firewall product but it treats the public network the same way that it treats the office WiFi.
Use SSL – Only use web sites that have SSL connections (look for HTTPS://twitter.com instead of http: //twitter.com) using SSL means that your data is encrypted to the server and cant be seen by others.
Use a VPN – Speak to your IT Manager or IT provider to get you a VPN, if you connect it before you do anything whenever your on a public hotspot your completely protected against prying eyes, VPN’s are cheap (free if you have the technology at the office or £6 per month if you don’t) Simple to use and brilliant.