When out and about, and using smartphones or laptops to access the internet, it is important to take steps to secure your device and information. When working online with your laptop using a public connection, up-to-date antivirus software
is your first line of defence.
Smartphones are effectively mini computers, and are increasingly being afflicted by malware that targets their operating systems; many people are unaware or underestimate the threat that viruses, Trojans and spyware pose to this relatively new technology. Familiarize yourself with your phone’s inbuilt system and make sure you’re using it. Regularly check for updates from the manufacturer of your phone’s operating system, and install them to patch vulnerabilities to malware. Installing security software like BullGuard Mobile Antivirus is a very good idea– this software scans all incoming and outgoing connections for malware threats to secure your smartphone.
Be aware of the ways in which the useful services you use with your smartphone can be exploited. GPS is a great location system, but can also be used by others to track you and your phone - when you don’t need GPS, turn off it. Do the same with Bluetooth - leave Bluetooth off and keep your device hidden so that it can only be seen when you want other people or devices to see it. Only make Bluetooth connections in private and uncrowded areas, to avoid unwanted attention and spyware infection.
Free WiFi is everywhere nowadays – in coffee shops, stations, airports, and hotels. When connecting to free public WiFi with your smartphone or laptop, look for an encrypted network that requires a password. Check for a sign that verifies that the network name you’re planning to use has Secure Server Identification (SSID) to protect yourself from ‘channelling’ attacks. This is when hackers establish unauthorised WiFi access alongside legitimates services to dupe users into connecting with them and giving away usernames and passwords.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are a great way to make secure internet connections in public. With a VPN, your computer makes a completely encrypted connection to another computer, which then connects to the internet from a non-public network. There are free applications that provide this service available online – the necessary software is installed then your computer is configured to only ever make encrypted connections when on the go.
Avoid doing sensitive work when on a public network – avoid internet banking unless you really have to. Your data is transmitted through the air using public WiFi and can intercepted and analysed for usernames and passwords. Any sensitive information should only be sent over a secure ‘https’ connection – look for ‘https://’ in the address bar of the browser. However, you must be sure you know who is at the other end of the ‘https’ connection. If you receive an error about the veracity of a security certificate when using a public network, don’t ignore it – stop using the connection. As a precaution, it is wise to disable shared folders when using public networks to prevent the installation of spyware from a malicious network.
Don’t forget the common sense, low tech ways you can keep your personal information secure. Look out for ‘shoulder-surfers’ who steal passwords by snooping over shoulders. Be aware of your surroundings and look around you. Try to sit with your back toward the wall, and lean over the keyboard when typing passwords. There have been cases of people using strategically placed cameras to steal information in this way, so keep in touch with what’s going on around you whenever you’re working in public.
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