Wireless computer networks have revolutionized the way in which we can use our portable web-connected devices. And now that many of us carry around a device such as a Smartphone or tablet computer, which is designed to be used on the move, the traffic passing through these wireless networks has increased greatly.
While we are at home or in the office, the wireless networks which we use are likely to be secured, preventing anyone who is within reach of the wireless signal from being able to access our network by the use of password protection.
But by the very nature of wireless networks, they are designed to provide free or at least easily metered access to the network, which in turn means that the user doesn’t need to use a router or all the other paraphernalia which we often associate with being able to get onto the internet in our usual surroundings.
Wireless networks themselves are usually secure, in that in order to use them, people need to enter a password which then enables their computer, smartphone or tablet to link to the network, and do everything they usually expect to be able to do online on their devices.
However, having a secure wireless network over which you can access the internet does not mean that you can afford to neglect using all the other forms of online security which you’re accustomed to.
Public Wi-Fi networks have, sadly become associated with a degree of risk, and not helped by scare stories such as those caused by the Google Maps camera teams, whose computers were able to intercept data being passed via wireless computer networks.
In order to prevent the data which you both send and receive via a wireless network from being read by others nearby, you therefore need to ensure that the connection between whatever device you’re using at the network is encrypted by the use of a private key – similar to a password enabling access to it.
Well-known commercial hotspot providers may insist that you obtain a key from them to access the networks, which gives some guarantee that at least they know who is likely to be accessing their network.
A more secure solution, particularly useful when a businessperson wants to access their company’s own network, is what’s known as a virtual private network, or VPN. Such connections can create a secure link between any two points on the internet, and are becoming increasingly popular for companies whose staff needs to be able to access their networks while out and about.
Apart from these, the main recommendations for people to help them ensure that they can shop or go about their regular business securely while they’re out and about are all about common sense. They include never letting someone you don’t know use your smartphone, tablet or laptop, and keeping an eye on who is around you and might be able to see what you’re doing online.
Don’t be lazy about security
We can easily become blasé when we’re using an internet connection in the security of our work or home environments. But if we want to stay safe while doing the same as we roam around, we need to be sure that our communications can’t be pried on, as far as possible. It sounds simple, but we should always bear in mind that the overriding principle of the internet is that it’s open and accessible to all. You should therefore be sure that your own access cannot be compromised by anyone else.
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