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Step 1: Understand what there is to lose and who's stealing the loot

Wireless laptops are a huge security risk, especially when they connect to public hotspots.Contributor Kevin Beaver provides a step-by-step guide for locking down your laptops using a variety of firewalls, encryption and security protocols.

When we're inside a coffee shop or any other public hotspot including airports and hotels, there's a lot of "juicy" wireless communication going on -- most of which is very easily intercepted. There's so much for us to lose and for the bad guys to gain in the form of e-mail, instant messages, files stored on laptop drives and more. The possibilities are endless. They include identity theft, loss of sensitive corporate information and the installation of malicious software that tracks our every action on the computer. What about that person who blackmails you when he finds some dirt on you? Something like that can be a real life-changing event!

When it comes to the people who are actually doing the bad stuff, you may be surprised. A hacker, we tend to think, is the stereotypical pimple-faced teenager pecking away on a keyboard in a school lab instead of that nicely dressed young man sipping a latte at the table next to us in the local coffee shop. The truth is that we don't really know who is out there poking and prodding our computers maliciously. However, based on people I've seen and heard -- even from self-proclaimed security professionals -- a lot of people are doing bad things to other people's unsecured data in hotspot settings.

Malicious intruders who have nothing better to do can easily listen in on instant messaging (IM) conversations. They can watch Web browsing in real time, and they can even poke around on unsuspecting users' computers. Given how simple these attacks are to carry out, it's amazing that most people are not doing anything about it.

How to lock down laptops that connect to hotspots

 Home: Introduction
 Step 1: Understand what there is to lose and who's stealing the loot
 Step 2: Secure your computer to prevent attacks in the first place
 Step 3: Secure your communications link
 Step 4: Tools you can use to test if you're vulnerable

Kevin Beaver
Kevin Beaver is an independent information security advisor with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. He has more than 17 years of experience in IT and specializes in performing information security assessments. He has authored five information security-related books including Hacking For Dummies (Wiley), the brand new Hacking Wireless Networks For Dummies, and The Practical Guide to HIPAA Privacy and Security Compliance (Auerbach). You can reach Kevin Beaver at
Copyright 2005 TechTarget

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