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Stay Secure When Using Your Mobile PC in Public Hotspots

Hotspots in public places usually don't provide any type of security. It's your responsibility to take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe connection to your corporate network or to the Internet. Here are some steps you can take.

 

Install a firewall. A firewall helps protect your mobile PC by preventing unauthorized users from gaining access to your computer through the Internet or a network. It acts as a barrier that checks any information coming from the Internet or a network, and then either blocks the information or allows it to pass through to your computer. Windows XP includes a firewall that you simply need to turn on. If you're running Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack 2, Windows Firewall is turned on by default for all network and Internet connections.
To turn on Windows Firewall:
1.
Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
2.
In Control Panel, double-click Network Connections.
3.
In the Network Connections window, under Network Tasks, click Change Windows Firewall Settings.
4.
In the Windows Firewall dialog box, on the General tab, click On, and then click OK.

 

Allow only connections to approved access points. An access point is where your wireless network links to a wired system. By allowing only connections to certain access points, you can ensure that you don't pick up other Wi-Fi networks or unintentionally allow unauthorized users access to your mobile PC.
To allow only connections to approved access points:
1.
Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
2.
In Control Panel, double-click Network Connections.
3.
In the Network Connections window, right-click Wireless Network Connection, and then click Properties.
4.
In the Wireless Network Connection Properties dialog box, on the Wireless Networks tab, make sure that the Use Windows to configure my wireless network settings check box is selected.
5.
Under Preferred networks, make sure that the name of the network that you want to connect to is highlighted, and then click Advanced.
6.
In the Advanced dialog box, click Access point (infrastructure) network only, and then click Close.
7.
Click OK.

 

Use a VPN when connecting to your corporate network. VPN connections provide remote access to private networks over the Internet. Corporations use VPNs to allow secure access to their networks for approved users. All communications across a VPN are encrypted. Talk to your company's IT department about how to set up a VPN on your mobile PC.

 

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 using your mobile PC in a hotspot, it's best to disable file and printer sharing because when enabled, it leaves your computer vulnerable to hackers. Remember, though, to turn this feature back on when you return to the office.
To disable file and printer sharing:
1.
Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
2.
In Control Panel, click Security Center.
3.
In the Security Center window, click Windows Firewall.
4.
In the Windows Firewall dialog box, click the Exceptions tab.
5.
On the Exceptions tab, under Programs and Services, clear the File and Printer Sharing check box and then click OK.

 

Make your folders private. When the folders on your mobile PC are private, it's more difficult for hackers to access your files.
To make a folder private:
1.
Click Start, and then click My Computer.
2.
In the My Computer window, double-click the drive where Windows is installed, and then double-click Documents and Settings.
3.
Double-click your user folder, right-click the folder that you want to make private, and then click Properties.
4.
In the Properties dialog box, on the Sharing tab, click Do not share this folder, and then click OK.
5.
Repeat the steps above for each folder that you want to make private.

 

Password-protect your files. You can protect your files further by requiring 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. Learn more about encrypting your data to keep it safe.

 

Turn off wireless when you are not using it. When you're using your mobile PC in a public place but you are not connected to a wireless network, you should turn off your wireless device. You can either remove your Wi-Fi card or press the manual hardware button on your computer if you're using a Centrino-based mobile PC. In addition to protecting your computer from hackers, turning off wireless when you don't need it helps save battery power.
 

By selecting the best connection method for your needs and by being aware of security pitfalls when working in public places, you can enjoy productive and safe work sessions remotely.

 

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