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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Use Wi Fi Hostpots Wisely

article, networking, wifi, windows
How To Protect Yourself The ugly fact is that someone with enough skills and determination can hack into any network, and all but the most secure, private connections can be hacked by someone of average skill and enough determination. Consequently, the most important thing you can do to use Wi-Fi hotspots wisely is to lock down your data and system.

We urge you not to surf without a firewall. If you do not have firewall software installed, turn on Windows’ built-in firewall protection. Because many users have third-party firewall software, we won’t detail these instructions here. You can locate available firewall programs by browsing to windows.microsoft.com and searching under Firewall (your version of Windows).

The next step is to secure your data. Windows Vista/7 give you the option of selecting a network profile (Home, Work, or Public) when you connect. Always select Public unless you trust the network and its members. Doing this prevents other computers on the network from discovering your PC and turns off the File And Printer Sharing feature. You can tweak any of these settings in the Network And Sharing Center: right-click the network icon (a monitor or series of bars, potentially with a red X or starburst on top) at the bottom right of your display. Select Network And Sharing Center in Vista; Open Network And Sharing Center in Win7.

In WinXP, File And Printer Sharing is turned off by default unless you enabled it. To see if it is enabled, right-click the network (monitor) icon at the bottom right of your display and select Open Network Connections. Right-click the icon for your wireless device and click Properties. Under the General tab, deselect the File And Printer Sharing For Microsoft Networks checkbox to turn sharing off globally. When you return to a safe environment, you can re-enable this feature when necessary. In Vista/Win 7, you can also turn off the File And Printer Sharing feature manually through the network connection properties in Vista/Win7, but it’s easier to let Windows do it for you.

How To Connect Through Windows
To connect to a wireless network, rightclick the network icon and select View Available Wireless Networks (WinXP) or Connect To A Network (Vista). In Win7, select the Network icon.

A menu will pop up displaying available networks. Each OS will identify whether networks are secure. If the network you want is open, select it and click Connect. We advise not connecting to an open network unless you know it is the one you seek. Hackers set up open networks with friendly sounding names hoping that unsuspecting individuals will hop onto them.

If you are connecting to a secure network, or if you don’t know the name of the network you want, contact the network host. You’ll need the network name (also called an SSID) and, if the network is secure, a security key or passphrase. Select the desired network and provide the key if prompted. (See “How To Evaluate Security” before you complete this step.)

If you use WinXP, your network card may manage network connections, leaving you unable to connect using our instructions. To give Windows control, click Start, select Control Panel, click Network And Internet Connections, and select Network Connections. Right-click your wireless connection and click Properties. Click the Network Settings tab and select the Use Windows To Configure My Wireless Network Settings checkbox.

How To Set Up A Manual Connection

If you cannot locate the network you want (some networks choose not to broadcast their SSIDs), you can set it up manually. In addition to the network, name, and credentials, you will need the network security protocol and encryption type (TKIP or AES).

To set up a manual connection in WinXP, open the available networks list as described previously and click Advanced or Change Advanced Settings (depending on the service pack you have installed). On the Wireless Networks tab, click Add. In Vista/Win7, open the Network And Sharing Center. In Vista, click Set Up A Connection Or Network at the top left of the display; in Win7, click Set Up A New Connection Or Network (under Change Your Network Settings). Select Manually Connect To A Wireless Network and click Next.

Provide the information exactly as you were given it (uppercase and lowercase). In Vista/ Win7, you can opt to see the characters as you type for confirmation. If the network is WEP and you do not see this option, select Shared. Select an encryption type if you have one. Otherwise, keep the default. After entering all this information configuring the desired settings, click OK or Next to connect.

How To Evaluate Security
Most private, and also some public, networks use one of several security standards to protect users and themselves from intrusion. You’ll encounter WEP, WPA, and possibly WPA2. The Wireless Network Connection dialog box may provide the network type. If not, here’s a hint. WEP security keys always contain 26 characters. WPA and WPA2 security keys are eight to 63 characters in length

WEP is the least secure and easiest to crack; treat a WEP network as you would an unsecure network, setting its profile to Public unless you absolutely must communicate with other PCs. WPA and WPA2 are more impervious to cracking, so you can use a profile that is more open, such as Work, if necessary (or tweak the settings in the Public profile to open things up as needed.).

Take Charge
At the end of the day, the responsibility for protecting your assets lies with you. Using common Internet precautions is also a good idea. Before you provide sensitive information, be sure you are at a secure site. The Web address should begin with https instead of http and your browser should display a padlock icon or other security confirmation. Check with your email provider to see if you can encrypt your email messages. Another precaution you can take is to turn off your wireless adapter when you are not using the Internet. To turn wireless off, rightclick the icon for your wireless connection in the System Tray and select Disable. ▲

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