“Security awareness is important,” says Jack Tipshus, a Wi-Fi expert with computing services at UALR. “It’s just like locking the doors on your car, keeping the air in your tires, and checking the oil. It’s one of those things that requires maintenance. You’ve just got to stay vigilant.”
Here are more of Tipshus’ tips for those thinking about heading into the deep end of the Wi-Fi pool.
“The number one thing is, if you’re on a wireless network, make sure you’re in a trusted wireless network. And if you’re going to make a transaction of some kind over the network, whether that’s looking at your balance online or making a payment online — anything that’s of a sensitive nature to you — make sure you’re in a trusted network environment. If you’re at that coffee shop, a lot of companies just say, ‘Don’t!’ Use that landline back at the hotel room. Dial in, because if you’re dialing back into the network, it’s safe.”
“If you’re a business traveler. make sure you’re using a VPN — a virtual private network. That’s a security feature that wherever you are, you’re making a secure socket connection back to your home office or your home location.”
“Whoever sets up your network, if you’re going to get someone, make sure that they know what they’re doing and that they’re using security behind the scenes; that they’re doing things to secure and protect the network from outside eavesdroppers.”
“Always have virus protection, because some of the viruses will come in and they won’t just delete your data, they’ll steal your data. We call that spyware or malware… little programs that you get just by accidentally clicking on a link. “
“Never download an attachment from someone you don’t know. You’ve heard it. We’ve all heard it before. But I hope more people will remember it. Never open an attachment from someone if you’re not expecting an attachment from them. Whether you know who it is or not, if you’re not sure what it is, by all means find that IT person or contact someone before you download. Or, you can always pick the phone up and call the person who sent that message and say ‘Hey, is this okay?’ ”
“Remember that encryptions are typically based on mathematics, and computers are usually very good at doing math. So most of the encryption alone is not enough. Typically there are hack organizations that will publish the encryptions and how to crack them almost simultaneously with when they are released.”
“Always ask questions. When you walk into that Internet cafe, ask: ‘Hey, is it secure here? What are you guys doing for security?’ It can’t hurt to ask. You might get the phonebook of acronyms back at you, but at least you’ll know they care.”
And finally: “Be aware that there are hackers out there that do this. You think that just because you’re in DeWitt, Arkansas, or West Helena, and you’re in a small cafe, that there’s not a hacker there? Assume there is. Because there probably is. If you operate from that perspective, you’ll be safer in the long run.”
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