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Tips for a Safer Wireless Experience

Monday, August 31, 2009 09:17

Wireless networks are all around us these days. The ease of setup and low price have made them extremely popular. But is your connection secure? Can you safely use public networks?

ISU’s wireless network is encrypted and policed to ensure all users can use the network with little worry over other snooping, but some precautions should be taken when connecting via a wireless network, especially those “free” hotspots available just about everywhere. Here are some tips to arm yourself with on your next venture into the wireless:

  1. Remember, wireless is, by its nature, a wide open network protocol. There is no ultimate guarantee that the signal you’re using is secure. Keep this in mind in making decisions about what information send out over the web. Do you really need to log-in to that website, sending your username and password over a possibly unsecured connection?
  2. If possible, at a public hotspot, check with the hotspot owner on the name of the network and, if needed, what any login page or dialog should look like. This will help you ensure that the network you’re joining is legitimate, and the login isn’t a front trying to steal passwords.
  3. Whenever possible use secure sites to login or send personal information. Look for the padlock icon in your browser’s status bar or the “https” in the URL. See our article on HTTPS for more information.
  4. When using email and/or IM never say or send anything that you wouldn’t want a stranger to read
  5. Turn off your wireless card when not in use. This will keep you machine off the network when not needed. In addition, while convenient, allowing your laptop to automatically connect to any available network is risky. Turn this function off in you network preferences.
  6. As always, use a personal firewall and keep your anti-virus software up to date.
  7. Be aware of your surroundings. Make sure no one can look over your shoulder while logging in to sites. Also, never leave your laptop unattended without locking the screen.