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Wireless hotspots are changing the way people work and connect. These wireless local area networks (WLAN) provide high speed Internet connection in public locations as well as at home and need nothing more than a mobile PC such as a laptop or notebook equipped with a wireless card and also apply to any handheld devices such as a PDA.

Note:

This article will be focusing on laptop or notebook with Windows OS only.

Hotspots are by all means an everyday connection method for travelers and remote workers to browse the Internet, checking their e-mail, and even work on their corporate networks while away from the office. Hotspots (Wi-Fi) ranges from paid services, to public, free connections can be found everywhere, including:

  • Airports
  • Coffee shops or
  • Restaurants or Cafeteria
  • Libraries
  • Bookstores
  • Hotel lobbies

They are all open networks that are vulnerable to security breaches. And that means it’s up to the user to protect data on their PC.

How to make working in public locations more secure?.

Here’s a few tips to follow:

Secure Connections

Choose wireless networks that require a network security key or wired equivalent privacy key or have some other form of security, such as a certificate. The information sent over these networks is encrypted, which can help protect your computer from unauthorized access. The security features of different networks appear along with the network name as your PC discovers them.

Activate Firewall

Firewall helps protect your laptop or notebook by preventing unauthorized users from gaining access to your computer through the Internet or Network. It acts as a barrier that checks all incoming information, and then either blocks the information or allows it to come through. All Windows OS comes with a firewall, help protecting your PC by turning it on.

For Windows Vista or 7

  1. Click Start and then click Control Panel.
  2. In Control Panel, click Network and Internet.
  3. Under Windows Firewall, click Turn Windows Firewall on or off.
  4. Click On radio button and press OK.

For Windows XP

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  2. In Control Panel, click Network Connections.
  3. In the Network Connections window, under Network Tasks on the left sidebar, click Change Windows Firewall Settings.
  4. In the Windows Firewall dialog box, on the General tab.
  5. Click On radio button and press OK.

Monitor Access Points

Chances are that there are multiple wireless networks anywhere you’re trying to connect. These connections are all access points because they link into the wired system that gives you Internet access. So how do you make sure you’re connecting to the right one?. By configuring your PC to let you approve access points before you connect.

Configure Access Points

For Windows Vista or 7

Windows Vista takes the guesswork out of connecting to hotspots because you are automatically prompted to approve new connections. In addition, after you approve a connection, you assign a profile to it for future use and connections reference.

For Windows XP

  1. Click Start, click Control Panel, and then click Network Connections.
  2. Right-click Wireless Network Connection, and then click Properties.
  3. On the Wireless Networks tab, make sure that the Use Windows to configure my wireless network settings check box is selected.
  4. Under Preferred networks, make sure that the name of the network that you want to connect to is highlighted, and then click Advanced.
  5. Click Access point (infrastructure) network only, and then click Close.

Disable File and Printer Sharing

File and printer sharing is a feature that enables other computers on a network to access resources on your computer. When you are using your mobile PC in a hotspots, it’s best to disable file and printer sharing. When enabled, it leaves your computer vulnerable to hackers. Turn this feature back on when you’re not accessing any important files away from the public Wi-Fi hotspot.

Windows Vista or 7

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  2. Click Network and Internet, and then click Network and Sharing Center.
  3. Under Sharing and Discovery, click the arrow next to File sharing, click Turn off file sharing, and then click Apply.
  4. Click the arrow next to Printer sharing, click Turn off printer sharing, and then click Apply.

Windows XP

  1. Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
  2. Click Security Center, and then click Windows Firewall.
  3. Click the Exceptions tab, and then under Programs and Services, clear the File and Printer Sharing check box.

Make Folders Private

When the folders on your mobile PC are private, it’s more difficult for hackers to access your files.

For Windows Vista or 7

Windows Vista not only makes folders private by default, but it also requires passwords for shared folders. As a result, you’re already covered! But if you want to double-check, simply right-click on the folder in question, and select Properties. On the Security tab, you can review the set permissions.

For Windows XP

  1. Click Start, and then click My Computer.
  2. Click the drive where Windows is installed, and then click Documents and Settings.
  3. Open your user folder, right-click the folder that you want to make private, and then click Properties.
  4. On the Sharing tab, click Do no share this folder, and then click OK.
  5. Repeat the steps above for each folder that you want to make private.

Encrypt or Decrypt Folder or File

You can protect your files further by encrypting them, which requires a password to open or modify them. Because you must perform this procedure on one file at a time, consider password-protecting only the files that you plan to use while working in a public place.

Encrypting with Windows Vista or 7

Note:

Always back up your encryption certificate. If your certificate and key are lost or damaged and you do not have a backup, you won’t be able to use or access the files that you have encrypted.

For Windows Vista or 7

Encrypting folders and files is a way to protect them from unwanted access. Encrypting File System (EFS) is a feature of Windows that allows you to store information on your hard disk in an encrypted format. Encryption is the strongest protection that Windows provides to help you keep your information secure.

Encrypt

  1. Right-click the folder or file you want to encrypt, and then click Properties.
  2. Click the General tab, and then click Advanced.
  3. Check the Encrypt contents to secure data check box, and then click OK.

Decrypt

  1. Right-click the folder or file you want to decrypt, and then click Properties.
  2. Click the General tab, and then click Advanced.
  3. UnCheck the Encrypt contents to secure data check box, and then click OK.

Encrypting with Windows XP

What happens to your confidential files if your laptop is lost or stolen?. Losing your computer doesn’t have to mean losing your privacy. With Windows XP Professional, you can help protect important private information by using its Encrypting File System (EFS).

When you encrypt a file or folder, you are converting it to a format that can’t be read by other people. A file encryption key is added to files or folders that you choose to encrypt. This key is needed to read the file. Windows XP Professional makes the encryption and decryption process easy. When you are logged on to your computer, you’ll be able to read them. Anyone who tries to use your computer without your logon will not be able to read them.

Note:

Make sure you have your computer set up so that you have to log on to use it (when you start up, or when you have been away from the computer for a little while). If the computer is stolen when you’re logged in, your encrypted files will be readable.

For Windows XP

Encrypt

  1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click Windows Explorer.
  2. Right–click the file or folder that you want to encrypt, and then click Properties.
  3. On the General tab, click Advanced.
  4. Select the Encrypt contents to secure data check box.

Advanced Attributes dialog box

Note:

Files or folders that are compressed cannot also be encrypted. If you encrypt a compressed file or folder, that file or folder will be uncompressed.

If you have chosen to encrypt a single file, you can also choose to encrypt the folder that contains it.

Select Encrypt the file and the parent folder in the Encryption Warning dialog window. All files created in the encrypted folder will now be automatically encrypted.

Encryption Warning dialog box

If you encrypt a folder instead of a single file, you can choose to encrypt all the contents of the folder as well.

Confirm Attributes Changes dialog box for encryption

Decrypt

  1. Click Start, point to All Programs, point to Accessories, and then click Windows Explorer.
  2. Right–click the file or folder that you want to encrypt, and then click Properties.
  3. On the General tab, click Advanced.
  4. Clear the Encrypt contents to secure data check box.

When you decrypt a folder, you must decide whether to decrypt the folder only or to decrypt the folder and all files and sub folders contained in the folder. If you choose to decrypt the folder only, the files and sub folders within the folder remain encrypted. However, when you add new files and sub folders to the folder, they will not be automatically encrypted.

Confirm Attributes Changes dialog box for decryption

Remember, anyone who accesses your computer will also be able to access a decrypted file or folder. Windows XP Professional gives you the power to help keep your files and folders safe from unauthorized access. Use Windows XP Professional to encrypt important information on your computer and help safeguard your data.

Completely removing sensitive data from your Laptop or Mobile PC

If you’re working with extremely sensitive data, it’s better taking it off completely from your Laptop or Mobile PC. Instead, save it on a corporate network share or on a USB thumbdrive and access it only when necessary. This way, you have multiple safeguards in place.

When you on the move, selecting the best connections and adjusting settings can help make working in public places more secure.

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denComputing TipsComputing Tips,pcWireless hotspots are changing the way people work and connect. These wireless local area networks (WLAN) provide high speed Internet connection in public locations as well as at home and need nothing more than a mobile PC such as a laptop or notebook equipped with a wireless card and...Tech & Design stuff