How to Maintain Your Privacy While Using Wireless Internet

by Aeyne Schriber on March 22, 2011 in Wireless

Wireless Internet creates a lot of conveniences for people who are on the go or do not want to hassle with multiples wires to establish connectivity.  Like everything that makes your life easier there is a dark side and in the case of wireless Internet it is the question of safety and privacy while you are surfing the Web.  So what are some of the steps you should be taking to protect your data and your privacy while enjoying the convenience of wireless Internet?

First, it is important to understand that the methods you use to provide protection when using wireless Internet will depend upon whether you are using wireless connectivity in your home or you are accessing a public WiFi point, or both.  In any case there are different steps you should take for both types of wireless connectivity.

Providing Protection for a Home Wireless Connection

Many people do not think that they have to secure their wireless network at home, after all…..it’s home.  Although it may not appear like you would need to secure your home wireless connection because you trust the neighbors or you may not have any neighbors to speak of, the fact still remains that it is necessary to secure your home network.  After all, new technologies have made it possible for hackers to access your network even if they are farther away than the reach of your wireless signal.

  • Buy Your Own Wireless Router: When you obtain wireless Internet connectivity from an Internet Service Provider they provide you with a modem that creates your connection to the Internet via the cable or telephone line.  The modem is responsible for converting the cable or telephone line into an Internet connection.  With some ISPs the modem will also offer a wireless connection. Although this is not always the case, more often than not the equipment you are provided with from your Internet Service Provider is not always the highest quality.  Additionally, you may spend some time on the security configuration and then if the equipment fails you usually have to take it back to the ISP so they can exchange it for another.  Consequently, you lose your configuration and have to start all over again.  If you purchase your own router you have better control over the quality of the equipment and you can rely on the security configuration since it has a backup and is easy to restore.
  • Use Secure Encryption: Encryption is a method that is used to protect sensitive data and it can also be used to secure your wireless Internet connection.  Encryption really helps since most routers are shipped from the factory with the security disabled.  Home owners who do not know any better think that everything is okay and leave the router at the default settings which means that it is easy for someone to get into the network.  Instead you should set the security settings with a password that is hard to guess as well as difficult for a hacker to crack. Most wireless routers are equipped with both WEP and WPA encryption that you can configure to secure your wireless connection.  WEP is Wired Equivalent Privacy and was one of the first configurations used in early wireless equipment and is still included on even the most recent wireless routers.  It is relatively easy to hack into which is the reason WPA or WiFi Protected Access was released to provide stronger encryption for wireless networks.  It is important to note that if you use WPA encryption all of the equipment must be compatible with WPA otherwise it will default back to the WEP encryption.
  • Password Protect Your Router: When you set up your router it will have a default password that you can change to make your network more secure.  Create a new password as soon as you set up the router and make sure the password is difficult to guess or crack.  If you leave the default password on the router and someone accesses your network they can create a new password that basically locks you out of your own network.
  • Control What You Share: Choose only specific folders to be shared that do not contain any documents with sensitive information in them.  This creates better security than if you simply allow anyone that accesses your network to view the content of an entire drive on your PC.
  • Activate the Firewalls and Antivirus Programs: Make sure the firewall is activated on both your PC and the network firewall as well as your antivirus program.  Make sure you keep all of these programs updated with the latest security patches.

Providing Protection When Accessing a Pubic WiFi Network

When you access a public WiFi network such as in the coffee shop, mall, or any other type of public venue there is no guarantee that the wireless connection is secure.  In fact, if it does not require a password to log on you can bet the network is unsecured.  At the same token, if someone else logs on when you are logged on there is still no guarantee of privacy or security.

  • Activate Your Firewall: If you are using the Windows operating system usually the firewall is turned on by default but you should check to make sure it was not accidentally disabled by another program.  You can do this by accessing the Control Panel from start on the desktop and then clicking on Security and checking the firewall settings.
  • Encrypt Your Files: If you have folders that contain files with information you do not want others to see make sure those folders are encrypted when you use public WiFi.  If you are using the Windows operating system you can encrypt your folders by right clicking on the folder you want to secure and then click on Properties.  In the Properties window choose the General tab and then click on the Advanced button.  Tick the box next to “Encrypt contents to secure data” and then choose OK.
  • Do Not Access Sensitive Information: When you are using public WiFi refrain from accessing any sensitive information such as conducting your banking online and any other programs such as email that require you to enter a password.  Save those tasks for later and use the public WiFi for general purpose.
  • Disable Your Wireless: If you are using your PC in an area where there is public WiFi and you are not using the Internet, disable the wireless network capability on your PC by removing your wireless card or by right clicking on the Internet connection and then click on Disable.

Hopefully these tips will help you to stay safe online in your home and while you are on the road.

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