Wireless Computing Tips

A secure router is the first step to online security in your dorm or apartment!

With wireless access at colleges, dorms, and apartments now almost universal, there's a lot more opportunity for working outside the dorm. But there's also a lot more opportunity for hackers to get your passwords, etc. Protect yourself using the following advice:

Always connect to a secured network if you can.

Secured networks will have a padlock icon beside them in your connections list--these will require passwords, which will be an extra step to getting on the Internet, but it is SO worth it, especially when you're going to college around people who literally have nothing better to do than hack other people's computers.

Some college campuses offer both an unsecured wireless network for visitors and a secured network for students and faculty. Find out how to connect to the secured network as soon as possible!

Encrypt your wireless router's signal and rename your router.

When setting up a wireless router in an apartment, encrypt your signal so that others cannot intercept it. This will make your usage of the Internet a little bit more secure from hackers (though not totally).

Also, make sure you rename your wireless router something that is very different from other wireless routers in the dorm, so that other people won't accidentally try to sign on to your network. With tons of routers out there called by default names like "NETGEAR" and "linksys", etc, yours needs to stand out--something like "[your Internet nickname]'s internet" could work just fine.

Don't log into any important services while on an unsecured connection.

Try not to check your bank account, personal email account, social networks, etc. when you are on an unsecured network. Since people can intercept your signal, they could possibly get hold of your usernames and passwords, and subsequently wreak havoc on your online life.

If you absolutely must check email or bank balance while you are using an unsecured network, make sure to go through the site's logout process right after you are finished. DON'T just close out the browser window--this will leave your information vulnerable.

A related note: Don't turn on your browser's AutoComplete feature for filling out forms when you are using an unsecured wireless connection. This is another way that unscrupulous people can get hold of your personal information.

Don't use a private Internet connection that you don't personally pay for.

Don't "borrow" another person's wireless network without asking first, even if it's unsecured. This technique is actually VERY illegal and can get both you AND the person whose Internet you are using in trouble, especially if they have a monthly data limit or you're downloading illegal stuff through their connection.

Be especially careful while using free wireless access points.

Some cities now have free wireless access available in certain places, but they are mostly unsecured. Use these networks with caution--don't check online bank information, purchase items online, or fill out forms with your real name, address, and other such information.

Scan your computer after using unsecured connections.

Because some people are mean and like to download stuff onto your computer without your knowledge, it's important to run a spyware and anti-virus scan on your computer after each use of unsecured wireless Internet. (Just to be on the safe side.)

Don't do anything stupid/illegal on wireless Internet.

Not only is it much easier to catch people illegally downloading media and hacking into other people's computers when they are on wireless networks, but any illegal activities you engage in can get other users on the network in trouble as well, even if they were innocent. (Of course, don't do anything stupid/illegal while you're on wired networks, either--both will get you kicked out of college fast.)

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