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Security for Social Media Users on the Run

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Social media is a powerful tool for reporters because it allows them to update from anywhere they can get signal for their smart phone or public wi-fi for their laptop.  Unfortunately, public wi-fi is about as safe to use as handing people your ATM card and telling them your PIN number.  Thankfully, we can combat some of these dangers and make it safer to login and update on our social media accounts.

The dangers of public wi-fi aren’t anything new.  NPR published an article in 2009 while Nick Cernis pointed out that people have written programs designed to showcase how easy it is to get password data from computers connected to public wi-fi.  Part of the problem deals with the way that websites handle password data and control user access to the private areas.  Cernis’s article covers the technical side of how the system works, but suffice to say it’s like buying a ticket with your credit card only to hold the ticket loosely in your hand for anyone to grab.

Thankfully there are options for those willing to brave the dangers of public wi-fi.  The most basic things you can do is to turn off file-sharing.  File-sharing broadcasts the fact that your computer is there with its wi-fi active.  It’s an open invitation to anyone with a computer and ill-intent to take a crack at your computers and all its files.  You should also turn on your firewalls and turn off your wi-fi if you’re not using the hot-spot.  Lifehacker points out these tips and gives instructions on how to set them up on your PC or Mac.  Lifehacker and Cernis also point out one of the best ways to easily protect your data: Use a Virtual Private Network.

VPNs are networks nested within the Internet.  They set up private routes between the different members of the virtual network so that outside computers cannot see the data.  Gaming networks over the internet use VPNs to host servers, but they can be used to encrypt data from a computer on a public wi-fi.  The computer on public wi-fi will network with a computer on a secure connection and then use the secured computers connection to browse through the internet.  The computer literate can set up VPNs through a variety of programs on their own, but the average computer user can turn to one of several programs that makes it easy on them.  I won’t recommend one VPN service over another, but they are out there and Google searches for setting up VPNs bring up a lot of results.  Check them out and get your public Wi-Fi machines locked down.

 

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Written by Christopher Siler

2011/06/28 at 15:53

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