When it comes to Security it’s easy to get it wrong, since doing it securely takes a little planning, some knowledge, and forethought.
It’s important. If you’re not doing things securely, that guy in the corner with his laptop open at the Coffee Shop could be watching all your internet traffic on the Wi-Fi connection, including your account username and password as they fly by.
And when that happens, you can get hacked.
Fortunately, with a little planning, some knowledge, and preparation, it’s also relatively easy to be safe.
ITConnexx recommends the following very important practices to ensure your safety.
Turn On the Firewall
Firewalls are “on” by default in most operating system. Make sure the firewall is enable before connection to an open Wi-Fi hotspot.
Secure Your Desktop Email Program
Outlook, Windows Live Mail, Thunderbird, or others, you must make certain it is configured to use SSL/secure connections for sending and downloading email.
That means when you configure each email account in your email program, you need to do the following:
- Configure your POP3 or IMAP server for accessing your email using the SSL, TLS, or SSL/TLS security options, and usually a different port number.
- Configure your SMTP server for sending email using SSL, TLS, or SSL/TLS security options, and usually a different port number, such as 26, 465, or 587, instead of the default 25.
The exact settings, and whether or not this is even possible, depends entirely on your email service provider; you’ll need to check with them to determine the correct settings.
Secure Your Web-based Email
If you use a web-based email service like Gmail, Outlook.com, Yahoo, or others via your browser, you must make sure that it uses an httpS connection and that it keeps on using that httpS connection throughout your email session.
Fortunately, most of the major email services have moved to making https the standard, (and sometimes the only) connection method.
Secure ALL Your Other Online Accounts
Any and all web-based (aka “cloud”) services that require you to log in with a username and password should either be used only with https from start to finish, or should be avoided completely while you’re using an open Wi-Fi hotspot.
Use a VPN
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a service that sets up a securely encrypted ‘tunnel’ to the internet and routes all of your internet traffic through it. Https or not, SSL/secure email configuration or not, all of your traffic is securely tunneled, and no one sharing that open Wi-Fi hotspot can see a thing.
Use Different Passwords
Just for Fun, see ITConnexx Blog Post: http://www.itconnexx.com/it-support/worst-passwords-of-2015/
It’s important to keep your passwords different from each other and, of course, secure. Should one account be compromised by some stroke of misfortune, the hackers won’t automatically gain access to your other accounts. Remember, even when you use an open Wi-Fi hotspot properly, a hacker can still see the sites you’re visiting, even though they cannot see what you are sending to and from that site. That means they’ll know exactly what sites to target.
Consider NOT Using Free Wi-Fi at All
While it is technically possible, a mobile/cellular network connection is significantly less likely to be hacked.
Most mobile carriers offer one or more of the following options:
- Use your mobile device. Many phones or other mobile devices, such as iPhones, iPads, Android-based phones, and others are quite capable email and web-surfing devices, and typically do so via the mobile network. (Some can also use Wi-Fi, so be certain you’re using the mobile broadband connection for this option to avoid the very security issues we’re discussing.)
- Tether your phone. Tethering means you connect your phone to your computer – usually by a USB cable, but in some cases, via a Bluetooth connection – and the phone acts as a modem, providing a mobile broadband internet connection.
- Use a dedicated mobile modem. Occasionally referred to as “air cards”, these are USB devices that attach to your computer and act as a modem, providing a mobile broadband internet connection, much like tethering your phone.
- Use a mobile hotspot. In lieu of tethering, many phones now have the ability to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot themselves. There are also dedicated devices, such as the MiFi, that are simple dedicated hotspots. Either way, the device connects to the mobile broadband network and provides a Wi-Fi hotspot accessible to one or more devices within range. When used in this manner, these devices are acting as routers and must be configured securely, including a WPA2 password, so as not to be simply another openWi-Fi hotspot susceptible to hacking.
At ITConnexx we care about YOU! Our company was built on the notion, and is now guided by the mantra, “Solving Problems and Making People Happy” Go be secure and happy.