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Secure Your Notebook at Public Wi-Fi Hotspots

Since most public hotspots don't use encryption, anyone can easily see your Internet traffic or with a little effort hack into your notebook. To prevent this from happening  take six simple steps to secure your wireless connection at a public wi-fi hotspot.

Steps to Take

1. Check if it's a legitimate hotspot: Some distrustful individuals have been known to set up pirate routers with similar SSID names like "t-mobile" to gain access to user's log-on information and their personal data.

2. Enable your PC's firewall. Your firewall will protect your network from security threats and deceiving users and programs.

3. Disable Window's file-sharing feature. By default this feature is turned off. To check go to your Control Panel and select Windows Firewall, you may need to click Security Center for XP or Security in Vista. In XP, choose the Exceptions tab, and select Programs and Services to check that you have the "File and Printer Sharing" option unchecked. In Vista, click Change settings, then choose the Exceptions tab and read the instructions.

4. Avoid making online purchases or paying your bills without checking that you're on a secure site. Secure sites will contain a lock icon in the bottom corner of your browser. Check the URL in the address bar to ensure that the address starts with https. These sites have their own built-in encryption. Remember to avoid sending sensitive data such as your credit card number through email. Banks will never email you asking for your confidential information.

5. Disable your Wi-Fi radio when you're not at a hotpot. Hackers can use your Wi-Fi signal to access your personal data by creating peer-to-peer Wi-Fi connections with your notebook.

6. Consider signing up with a hotspot network such as as Boingo or T-Mobile. Both companies will automatically encrypt your online surfing sessions at hotspots.

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