I’m not a security specialist by any stretch of the imagination, but I am street wise let’s say and have studied the issues surrounding Internet security and especially the use of an open WIFI like you’ll find at many campgrounds, Starbucks and McDonalds.
If you’re interested, there is an excellent podcast by Leo Laporte of the TWIT radio network and Steve Gibson, recognized expert on Internet security. http://www.grc.com/securitynow.htm
We are vulnerable here on the road. We don’t have a secure home network and we need to conduct our lives including paying bills and banking. While nothing is perfectly safe, you can take some steps to increase your security, prevent hacking and stolen identities.
- Be extremely careful if using a public computer like you would find at a library or campground office. Key loggers can capture everything you write, logins, passwords and personal emails. I limit the use of public computers to simple surfing on the web.
- Turn off file sharing on your computer or laptop – on the mac go to setting, sharing and make sure all boxes are unchecked. On Windows, use public security settings.
- Turn off the automatic joining of networks feature. It’s very easy to spoof a network in a public location – you may see ATTWIFI or some SSID that looks legitimate but that ID may be broadcast from a rogue computer. Once you log in, they have you – everything that you type or enter. Look very carefully at the network you are joining. If it’s a coffee shop or other location, ask the shop for the legitimate ID of the network.
- Use strong passwords with upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols – consider the use of the software LastPass for PC or 1Password on the MAC.
- Don’t use public WIFI for banking or sensitive transactions. Even though you see https and the lock symbol in the address bar and the information you send is encrypted, if you happen to join a rogue network by mistake, all of your keystrokes can be logged. It is much safer to use a cellular network for online banking or a bank’s smartphone application. Turn on all safety features, like the texting of a temporary access code that some banks offer. If you have the capability, use the hotspot feature of your smartphone or tablet.
- Turn on the https: or encryption feature when you can. This is available in Facebook, Gmail and Twitter and other applications.
- Use anti-virus software and turn on your computer firewall. It’s always safer to be behind a router whether it’s a wired router or a router like a MIFI. We’ll delve into this on the internet device page.
- Turn on the password lock feature of your smartphone, laptop and tablet. You would be surprised how much personal information is available on your device including auto saved logins.
- Keep an eye over your shoulder for someone watching your keystrokes.
- Backup your files. While I would normally recommend an online automatic backup application like Carbonite or Backblaze, bandwidth on the road can be expensive and constantly backing up your device to the cloud, while desirable, may get expensive. Backup to a portable external hard drive. For you most sensitive documents that are scanned and digitized, I do recommend the use of an online service like Evernote. More on this on another page.