WiFi Security

Diane called yesterday with a bunch of questions related to security.  She just got two new computers to take on the road.  Andy and Diane are getting into online trading.  They expect to connect at WiFi Hotspots as they travel in their RV.

What software does she need?  She already downloaded Windows Defender, Spybot Search & Destroy, and Ad-Aware.  Norton Internet Security is on one of the computers, the remaining subscription from her old computer.  AVG free is installed on the other.
I am no longer a fan of Norton.  It is such a resource hog these days.  Removing it can be a chore.

In our seminars, I say you need ONE Firewall.  I believe if your computer is clean and up to date, the Windows XP firewall is enough for most folks.  You need ONE Anti-Virus program.  I use AVG free.  Chris pays for the Pro version.  I use the three anti-spyware/adware programs listed above plus Spyware Blaster.

The most important thing is to keep your programs AND operating system UP TO DATE.  In addition, don’t fall victim to the scams and come-ons in emails and on the web.
Infections and malware most people get on their computers have already been fixed by security updates.  Meaning, if they were careful and up to date, they wouldn’t have the problem.

WiFi security is a different matter.  WiFi is radio.  Low power, two-way radio for digital data.  Radio waves travel in the air.  It is possible to listen in on these transmissions with the proper equipment.  Encryption is the way to keep your information secure.  Secure websites like financial institutions handle encryption effectively. You can identify a secure website with the lock icon in the lower right corner of your screen and the https (the s stands for secure) in the address.  If you’re using a secure website, everything you do on that site is encrypted even on WiFi.  From your keystrokes, thru the local area network, thru the internet to the destination, AND back.  If someone was ‘listening in’ all they would get is coded gobleydegook.

A WiFi hotspot is a local area network connected to the Internet.  The range is generally very limited.  An eavesdropper would need to be close to intercept your data.  
Public hotspots typically do not encrypt data.  They are not secure because they want people to be able to connect.  The user is expected to provide security.  To avoid others on the same network from seeing your computer, make sure to turn off File and Printer sharing.  Tools like JiWire’s Hotspot Helper provide encryption for public hotspots.

Practice Safe Computing.  Perform BUCS regularly.  You’ll save big bucks!

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