As those of you know, I do a lot of work off of public hotspots. As a freelancer it’s great to get away from the office and work someplace where there is a little public “noise’ going on. It’s also nice to get some fresh air and some sun in the process while changing things up a little bit.
Here’s my latest video I made from the Apple Store, a public WiFi hotspot with some tips and tricks I explain in this posting:
But public hotspots have always been pretty risky to work off of and now more so. Recently a new plug in for the Firefox web browser was introduced allowing anyone to access any computer on a public hotspot without the users knowledge and you don’t need much in the form of tech skills to do it. That’s kinda scary.
This new Firefox plugin is called Firesheep and is very effective at capturing your cookies (which has your logon information) on sites that do not encrypt. Hence Firesheep is not able to catch your logon information for a site like Gmail because, by default, Gmail has you sign in using an encrypted website. I do hope you use Gmail, Right? ;)
You can also sign onto facebook using their encrypted site. Just go to https://www.facebook.com. You just have to make sure you have the “S” in httpS and you will be directed to a secure area of facebook. I would highly recommend you bookmark it.
But now I want to introduce a new tool in my arsenal for locking down my computer when using a public hotspot, the VPN. That’s short for a virtual private network.
A virtual private network (VPN) is a computer network that is layered on top of an underlying computer network. The private nature of a VPN means that the data travelling over the VPN is not generally visible to, or is encapsulated from, the underlying network traffic. … en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VPN
If you have ever worked from home for a larger company you are normally required to sign onto their network through a VPN, a secure, encrypted connection.
But for us freelancers there are VPN vendors that will sell you access to their secure, encrypted connections for a fee. There are even some free VPN’s out there but you get what you pay for so I am not going to recommend them.
First, start by checking out myvpnreviews.com. This site has rated the top 10 VPN services complete with user reviews. You can peruse the site and check out the various VPN services, their pro’s and cons as well as price points.
It’s just like purchasing anti-virus or firewall software. It is highly recommended you install and use a VPN or you run the risk of exposing all your personal information to a malicious hacker on a public wifi hotspot. Or better yet, stay off public wifi if you can.
If you must know I use www.astrill.com. They are reasonably priced, easy to setup and have 18 servers all over all over the world. You can even use it at home if more than one person is on your home network.
So do what the big companies do and protect yourself while on a public hotspot. It’s well worth the investment.