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Virtual Private Networks

If you use wireless access, chances are you have used someone else's unsecured WiFi network. If you are just someone looking for an internet connection, this does no harm to the unknowing provider of your web access, however, people can exploit other's unsecured WiFi networks to see exactly what they are doing online - and get a hold of their personal information and transactions.

So for your own security, you should make sure to put a block on your own WiFi network if you have one. But what about if you have to use a public wireless link? In this case, you could use a VPN.

What is a VPN?

VPN stands for virtual private network. A VPN keeps your wireless communications safe by creating a secure "tunnel," though which your encrypted data travels. These tunnels cannot be entered by data that is not properly encrypted. Not only is data encrypted when you use a VPN, but the originating and receiving network addresses are also encrypted. This adds an extra layer of security.

How Do I Get a VPN?

Many companies provide VPN access to their employees, especially if you have to travel a lot for work or you work remotely or from home. If you find yourself in this situation, check with your IT department for more details.

You can also use a paid service to access a VPN. You will have to download a program for a fee and pay a monthly or yearly subscription to retain access to the virtual private network. Many companies offering VPNs also offer a free trial of their service.

Are There Other Options?

If you don't want to subscribe to a VPN because you just won't use it enough to make it worth it, or if you're in a pinch and you need to access a public hotspot without a VPN, there is another option. You can log into a public hotspot securely through your home or office PC by using a remote-access program.

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Spyware has many ways of getting onto your computer, such as:

When you download programs - particularly freeware, or peer-to-peer sharing programs.

More covertly, spyware can install itself just by you visiting certain sites, by prompting you to download an application to see the site properly.

ActiveX controls. These pesky spyware makers will prompt you to install themselves while using your Internet browser