In today's world of technology, we are no longer tethered to the Cat5 cable at the end our Internet accessible device. With each new and improved device manufactured, wireless access is now the norm.
So how do you protect yourself, your data and your identity when using a standard that is inherently flawed in its security?
While my list of best practices is not all-inclusive, it's a start down the road to your wireless security:
1. Know that security is a process not a destination. Security is an ongoing process. Today you may be able to say you are secure, but tomorrow, the entire landscape could change.
Think of your security as you do your vehicle. It must be maintained and monitored.
2. Educate yourself. Your security is YOUR responsibility as a citizen of the global Internet community. When you do not maintain proper security, you put the entire Internet community at risk!
Never place your total trust in one vendor, manufacture, or service provider. You should always know what's running on your system and network and why!
3. Always maintain your software updates, security patches, and service packs on ALL your software. You may have other software running on your device besides a Microsoft operating system (OS). Make sure you're maintaining updates on iTunes, Java, Adobe Reader, Flash and other non-OS-specific software. Every software developed has updated from time-to-time and many fix known security issues.
Remember, within 24 hours of a patch being released, someone out on the Internet has already started exploiting the problem the patch fixed. Prompt updates insure you are not a victim.
4. When using wireless, make sure you are using a secured wireless connection. If that is not practical at the time, and you must use free WI-FI or an unsecured connection, follow these practices for safe computing.
- Use a browser to access web-based mail. Even if you are on your personal laptop and have Outlook or Windows mail available, do not use it. Standard mail programs send your passwords in plain text, meaning anyone on the unsecured connection with you can capture that information. Web browsers encrypt passwords when you access the web-based email.
- Do not pass any identifying information through an unsecured website when using open wireless. While shopping online, not all secured connections are fully secured! Sometimes, credit cards are not encrypted as well as other form data you may enter.
- Always err on the side of caution and assume someone could grab your information.
- If at all possible, reserve your shopping and financial transactions for a time when you are on a secured wireless or hard wired connection on your own network.
- Use a good antivirus and good firewall protection. And no, Microsoft is not one of them.
- Many of the security software vendors have special encryption toolbars for wireless connections. Trend Micro is one of them. It senses when you are using wireless and automatically engages the encryption keyboard for use in your browser. Most hackers and identity thieves don't want to have to work hard so by encrypting your information, you make it harder for them and they will move on to the next person who's giving away their information easily. A good firewall will block any suspicious incoming packet – a good thing to do when on unsecured wireless.
Good security practices when using wireless is not rocket science. You just have to be trained in what that means, and anyone can learn to be safe online. I've taught thousands to do it over the past 15 years so I speak from experience.
I want to give you two more helpful hints. The biggest security risk you will face is the social engineer. This person can engage you a conversation and get a lot of information from you freely.
For instance, if you show someone your cell phone don't let him or her see your code to unlock it. Most hackers and identity thieves know that you probably use the same 4-digit code to unlock your phone and your PIN number on your debit card or credit card. It's just one more piece of personally identifying information you give away without realizing it.
Be careful what you say over your cell phone when others are within listening distance and never volunteer information even in casual conversation. I have heard people call their credit card company on their cell phone in a crowded commuter train and give out all the numbers and security question answers to the entire train car!
A healthy dose of paranoia goes a long way when it comes to security. Get some!
Author – Debbie Mahler is the owner of a 100% woman-owned a full service technology and training company ( http://mice.org ) specializing in technology strategies centered on the needs of individuals, solo-preneurs, and small-to-midsized businesses. We are your IT department without the overhead. From web & graphic design, to computer support and training, we're here to help you navigate the new digital landscape! If you liked this and other articles, please sign up for our free Tech Tips & get the free eBook: Why is my PC so slow? http://mice.org/lists/