Ensuring the security of your laptop when you want to get out of the house to work at a public library, your local coffee shop or shopping center is just as important as securing your home network. Working in these environments can be convenient, but you should take steps to secure your data. Malicious individuals can roam these public WiFi hotspots in search of easily accessed information from your computer. While you may think about securing your home network, you may not realize the need to secure your laptop computer or netbook when surfing away from your home.
Cyber Criminals: Securing Your Laptop on a Public WiFi
While the advancement of technology has made life simpler in some ways, it has also opened up the ease of data crimes and theft. Public WiFi networks are a prime location for these thieves to operate because it is often easier to crack the lower-security setting at these locations than on home networks. There are free, easy to download applications offered for the Firefox browser, such as the Firesheep extension, that could allow anyone to view other people’s activities on an open WiFi network. If these add-ons are so easily obtained, you could be sharing your work data, search history and private information with a professional identity thief or a curious teenager.
Firefox Add-On Protection to Secure Your Laptop
Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can take to secure your WiFi activities. First, download the Firefox Internet browser if you don’t already use it. Download and install an add-on called “Force TLS”. After Firefox installs and reboots, click on “tools” then, “Force TLS Configuration”. Click the “Add” button and enter the websites you frequent while on a WiFi Network. You should enter any website that requires a password and user name entry such as a business website, bank accounts, shopping sites or email portals.
This add-on encrypts the websites listed and changes the URL from http to https. You will not notice a change with this modification, but anyone trying to grab your data will. They will not be access your personal data, including your sensitive log-in information that could lead to bank account numbers, Paypal accounts, your email account, or even your Facebook friends.
As an alternative, you can also use the HTTPS Everywhere extension that encrypts your user data and automatically forces HTTPS for popular websites such as Facebook. This extension makes part of the process more automatic, but it is harder than Force TLS to add individual websites such as your bank’s online portal.
Securing Your Laptop on a Public WiFi Conclusion
While you are taking a risk by being on a public WiFi system, this one small installation could save you the headache of locked accounts, stolen funds, compromised Paypal accounts or hijacked Facebook emails. If you plan to work on a public WiFi, make sure any website that you need is added to the encryption list.
Take the time to secure your Internet browsing and online activities on your laptop computer any time you plan to be off your secured home or business network. Securing your laptop on a public WiFi may save you time, money and your sanity.
Firefox Force TLS Add-on
TechCrunch: How to Protect Your Login Information from Firesheep
Electronic Frontier Foundation: HTTPS Everywhere