May 18, 2007

Personal Post: Free WiFi Security Tips

Yesterday, I left my laptop running in the back bedroom, next to an open window, and promptly forgot it. Hours later, I returned to turn it off.

Good news, battery was recharged to 100%; bad news, a message that "others are using this computer, turning off power now may cause them to lose their work." Or words to that effect ... I don't have the message down, word for word.

I thought I had disconnected the laptop's automatic birddog feature of finding nearby wireless networks. Wrong!

I immediately shut the laptop down. And, today, on my desktop with its secure wired-in internet access, I went surfing for solutions to this problem. Thought I'd share them, especially since this would apply not only to neighbors with wireless, but to all those free Wifi HotSpots around town these days.

1. There are blocks you can establish within your files, including passwords and "do not share" parameters on certain files. A good set of directions is provided by Arnelle O'Neill at Microsoft, albeit her article is somewhat dated.

2. There are firewalls that you can buy (I have ZoneAlarmPro, and I don't know why it didn't work) and internal blocks under Network Connections to use. PC Magazine gives some good instructions in another older article written by Leon Erlanger.

3. TechWorld offers a TopTen List for Safe WiFi use. It's a good one, with lots of detail. Included here, free tests - not only of your WiFi security as a whole, but the effectiveness of your firewall and anti-virus protections.

Now, I'm off to implement the things I've learned from these sites. Since I don't access the web from the laptop - I only use it for word processing - I'm not that worried about things. No passwords, no financial info for the Evildoer to have found.

I still don't like the Evildoer roaming around, reading my drafts and things, though. And, I hope that I didn't store my FitDay info on the darn thing. I hate to think that my neighbor's teenage son (and therefore, his mother and everyone else in a 60 mile radius by now) knows how much I weigh.

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