How do I secure my notebook at public Wi-FI hotspots?

Most public hotspots don’t use encryption, so assume that anyone can see your internet traffic.

Here’s our top tips on securing your notebook:

• Make sure it's a legitimate hotspot; there have been examples of people setting up pirate routers with the same name as a legitimate one. These routers can be used to capture personal data, so check the name of the wireless network before you connect.

Most places will have the network name written somewhere. If you can’t see it, ask someone.

• Check your computer’s firewall is on and file sharing is off. Open the Control Panel and go to the Security Centre to check your firewall (the exact path will vary depending on which operating system you’re using).

If you’re using XP, you’ll need to go to Programs to turn file sharing off. However, if you’re using Vista, go to change settings and click the Exceptions tab and follow the instructions.

• Make sure you’re on a secure site before entering any personal details (passwords, bank details etc.). Check that the URL begins with https and look for a padlock. Some browsers display the padlock in the address bar or on the page so there’s no specific place to look.

These details are important because they show that the website has built in their own encryption to protect your data.

• Don’t leave your Wi-Fi radio on when travelling between hotspots. Hackers can use this to create a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connection and access your computer.

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