How to Keep Your Notebook Secure at Wi-Fi Hotspots

Last Updated Oct 7, 2008 9:31 AM EDT

hotspot.jpgI admit it: When I hop onto the free Wi-Fi network at Panera Bread, I rely on nothing more than Vista's firewall for security. Am I asking for trouble? Almost certainly. As Consumerist puts it: "Using a public Wi-Fi spot without a [Virtual Private Network] is like shouting everything across the room in plain English--anyone who wants to listen in, can."

See, while the firewall keeps hackers from breaking into my PC, the wireless traffic to and from the system is up for grabs. A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, encrypts that traffic, so that I'm "shouting across the room" in some indecipherable language.

What you (and I) should do, then, is install a free or cheap VPN program on our notebooks and use it every single time we access a public network. Consumerist lists a handful of VPN solutions, including the free OpenVPN program we covered last year. Also discussed: a USB drive you can plug in for instant (and user-friendly) VPN.

This is required reading for anyone who frequents public hotspots. Photo by cruiz7447.
  • Rick Broida On Twitter»

    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.

Comments

Market Data

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Market News

Stock Watchlist