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How to connect without compromising your computer s independence.

Do you engage in risky hotspot behavior? Sure it is fun and you might even make a few bucks using unfamiliar mobile broadband connections, but are you ok with exposing your most vulnerable sensitive information?

Unless you take the proper precautions, connecting to unknown Wi-Fi connections can put your computer at risk. Here s how you can lock down your system, so you can take pleasure in wireless hotspots without putting your computer in a compromising position.

Put Up Your Walls
This may seem like a  duh?  But many disable their Windows firewall from time to time and forget to turn it back on. Keep in mind that the Windows firewall can only protect one way. If you run Vista, you can benefit from protection, going in and going out. But if you don t use Vista, it is a good idea to use a security program that offers full firewall protection, like Zone Alarm. Or you might want to add a complete security suite, like BitDefender.

Stop Sharing
Disable the  connect by ad hoc mode  and turn off your file sharing tool. Vista makes this step unnecessary, it gives you the ability to select your connection as a  public  source and it automatically shuts down file sharing. Although, with Vista you have to turn off  network discovery  so other users cannot try to connect to your computer.

Use Your VPN
If possible, take advantage of the security supplied by your VPN (Virtual Private Network) to access your Intranet.

Send Mixed Messages
Use an email program that encrypts not only your passwords but also your content, like Outlook.

Keep Your Private Information Private
Beyond encryption, also consider the type of information you share while connected to a hotspot. If possible, save your personal interactions for a more secure connection. Another good idea, just don t put any personal information on your computer, keep your private data in a tiny flash drive you can keep in your pocket.

Don t Hook Up Unless You Want To
Why leave your connection open when you are not using it? Shut down your wireless adaptor and then you don t have to worry about anyone sneaking in while you are not watching.

Watch Out For Slimeballs
Don't leave your screen facing peering eyes; watch out for people looking over your shoulder to steal your passwords. Additionally, beware of  evil twins.   Evil twins  pose as legitimate wireless internet connections, fool you into thinking you are safe and then take advantage of you.

Essentially, steps for protecting your laptop are similar to bad dating tips - put up your walls, don t share and always send mixed messages. If you put into action these simple safety measures you can decrease your risk and increase your possibility of having a good time with your connection.

At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don't Have To. 

References

CompuMentor. (2006). Five Tips for Secure Wireless Web Surfing. Retrieved January 11, 2007, from http://www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/connections/page5998.cfmV

Computerworld Inc. (2006). How to protect yourself at wireless hot spots. Retrieved January 11, 2007, from http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9007142&pageNumber=1

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