Recently a client connected to a public WiFi hotspot and within minutes her email address was used to SPAM out malicious phishing email messages. If that wasn’t bad enough, the hacker ran a script on her computer which placed a rule in Outlook. The rule declared that any incoming messages were to be marked Read and moved to the Deleted items folder. As a result, she believed she wasn’t ‘receiving’ any email. The situation could have been much worse and we had to check her system thoroughly for any nasties that should not have been there. So how do you deal with a problem like this?

Set your network option to Public when using a public or ‘free’ Wi-Fi service.

When you connect to WiFi network with versions of Windows 7 and onwards, you are asked Do you want allow your PC to be discoverable by other PC’s and devices on this network? See the image to the left.

1) Choose Yes at home or at work, as it helps with finding local devices like printers, servers, NAS storage and media devices such as Apple TV.

2) Choose No on a public network for example a restaurant, conference room, hotel etc. Even choose the public on a private network such a clients premises, unless you specifically need to connect to local devices. This will set your firewall to ‘hide’ your computer and disallow any external connections. In other words, always select the network as public when it is.

It will only ask you once, so make sure you stop and consider the question. If you make a mistake or are unsure of your selection, you can check and change the setting by following the instructions here for Windows versions 7, 8 and 10. If you are a person who travels regularly and connect to other networks (even with a network cable) make sure your PC (or Mac) is up to date with the latest patches. Verify your antivirus is active and up to date with the latest virus definitions.

My IT Support can assist you in a security audit of a computer and business network, which in today’s world of hyper Internet activity is something an organisation should do at least once a year. We can also connect to your your computer remotely at anytime, as we did with our client above and assist with any problems you may have encountered.

Personal Hotspot on your mobile devices

Personal hotspot’s on mobile devices can be compromised if there are vulnerabilities in the device and / or the the password is weak. As such, unscrupulous persons can simply scan for an available hotspot nearby, and try to connect to the Internet and your laptop though your mobile device.  Check and perform the following on all your devices that have personal hotspot functionality available:

  • Keep the hotspot tuned off if you are not using it, don’t leave it on by default. This is the safest way to protect your device from being discovered and compromised
  • Make sure the password is complex and not easy guess. You can easily verify your password on your device if you forget it.
  • Change your password regularly, particularly if you have given it out a few times to others

We will continue to update this page as new security issues surrounding public WiFi connections become available. In the meantime, we hope this information has been informative and helps keep you safe from what can be as the times the big bad net 🙂