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Leveraging your Mobile Hotspot

Leveraging your Mobile Hotspot

You're out and about and have some time between meetings. Or, if you're like me, you've just brought your son or daughter to soccer practice and decide that it is not worth driving back and forth, only to net 20 minutes back at the house and you want to get some work done in the car. Yes, I know, I am sure you've never done this, I am the only one, right?

How do you access the internet?

Well, you have basically a few options.

First, you might consider "borrowing" someone's WIFI. Well, that is so 2010. While you may have gotten away with that a number of years ago, it is bad form today and outright silly, not to mention unsafe. While most wireless networks are "secure" meaning you need the password to get on to the network. If you do find a network which is "open", you should beware as it may be open for a reason -- to sniff the data you send in an effort to steal information. Side note -- it is just amazing how many WIFI connections are available when you're on vacation visiting the grandparents in Florida! There is sometimes that temptation to just get in and get out quickly, what harm could it do, right? Wrong. Don't do it.

There are many Hotspots available from internet service providers (ISPs). These are a "benefit" of being a subscriber -- you can get high-speed access from your cable company while on the go. While this is not an outright "bad" idea, you are vulnerable to "fake" networks and "man in the middle" attacks. This is where the network you *think* you are connecting to is not really the ISP's network but someone who is proxying the traffic and all the while helping themselves to your data. This is kind of like those "skimmers" that read your debit card at the ATM at the truck station just off the highway. Everything works fine, but someone snagged your information and by the time you realize something is wrong, you've been victimized. However, the stakes are actually much higher when someone gets between you and the Internet because you just never know when, or if, your information has been accessed.


In all cases you are better off using your own mobile device -- either a dedicated personal hotspot device or just your handy dandy cell phone with "tethering" enabled. 

While we never know 100% of the hops our data makes on the Internet, using your own mobile phone has a couple of advantages. First, it is in all likelihood, ALWAYS with you. We spend more time with our phones than anything else, so we have the advantage of being able to access our personal device's internet connection just about any time. You can have your laptop "remember" the network, so connecting is a breeze. If you want to share the network with a family member or a friend, it is as easy as sharing a password. (note to self, you may consider changing your password from time to time...story for another day).

Regardless of where you get your internet access from, you will want to do a couple more things.

First, enable the firewall on your computer -- there is no good reason to not have this security feature enabled.

Second, make sure that any place you visit on the web is secured using a digital certificate. A digital certificate provides protection in two ways. A digital certificate gives you more confidence that the site you are visiting is indeed the site they are claiming to be. Your browser will usually let you know if there is something wrong with the digital certificate. Plus, the communication exchanged between your laptop and the site is encrypted. Safe computing involves many steps. To learn more, see our posts on VPN, firewalls, and the three A's of Information Security -- Authenication, Authorization and Auditing.


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