Secure browsing on Public WiFi

How to keep your Computer safe on a Public WiFi

Public WiFi is absolutely great to have for traveling and working from your local coffee shop.  The problem with public WiFi even if it is password protected is that all of your information is passed through the WiFi for anyone to intercept.  Someone with minimal computer knowledge can download aprogram that collects all the traffic on a WiFi network and then search that traffic for account information such as usernames and passwords.  Every time you enter your username and password to a website while on a Public WiFi, this information passes through the Public WiFi acces point allowing anyone else on the Public WiFi to grab it and use it against you.  This goes for banking information, account information, etc.  Albeit most people don’t know how to actually use the information they collect let alone collect it but the threat is very real.   

You may like to know that it’s not even illegal to collect other peoples information while on a Public WiFi because its assumed that whatever you do on a Public WiFi network is just that, Public.  Therefore we are going to show you some security mechanisms that will allow you to continue using the Public WiFi hot spots while keeping your information secure.

One major feature built in to all Mac OSx computers is the Firewall.  You can access the settings for this by going to System Preferences and clicking on Security and Privacy.  You must click on the lock at the bottom of the screen to unlock the settings.  Click on the Firewall tab and make sure the Firewall is enabled.  Clicking on the Firewall options will allow you to manage what applications on your computer have inbound and outbound access to your Mac.  You will also want to make sure that “Enable Stealth Mode” is checked which will ensure your Mac doesn’t respond to or acknowledge attempts to access your Mac from the network by test applications using ICMP, such as Ping.

For those of you using a Windows based computer, you also have a built-in firewall that you should be using.  You should ensure that it’s enabled by going to the Control Panel and clicking on Windows Firewall.  Ensure that it is enabled for all networks.  You can harden your firewall by adding specific applications that you trust and then when an application or service attempts to access your computer, you will be notified to allow it.

You can also take it a step further by installing an additional firewall for your Mac or PC.  Here is a list of the top Firewall’s for Mac and PC.