worth a read may save you a lot of bother.

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worth a read may save you a lot of bother.

Postby johno » 17 May 12, 2:35 am

Dear J,

We've all become so reliant on our Internet connections, that it can feel like you've lost a limb if you can't get online for a while. If you're anything like me, you probably search out the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot with your phone or laptop when away from home - to get your latest Windows Secrets newsletter!

Many hotels and other public places such as airports and restaurants obligingly provide Wi-Fi access, sometimes for free or sometimes for a small cost.

But, did you realise that using these free Wi-Fi services actually poses one of the most serious threats to your computer's security?

The problem is down to the way you connect when using a free Wi-Fi service. You see, once you have actually connected to the Wi-Fi network, the Wi-Fi provider usually pops up a browser window on your computer. You have to use this pop-up to pay for access, or accept the terms and conditions of their free service.

You probably don't even notice this window most of the time - just click Agree and then you're online.

If you're abroad, the pop-up might even be in a foreign language meaning you have no idea what it says - and until you are fully online, you can't use the Google Translate service to read it.

However, hackers and cybercriminals are using these pop-ups to spread malicious software and take over PCs. According to recent analysis carried out by the FBI, these kinds of attack are becoming more common, and either work by a hacker intercepting and modifying the normal connection messages displayed by a network, or by creating their own fake networks which they trick users into connecting to.

The malware can also be spread through pop-ups that prompt you to install an update for a software application on your PC.

So, if you regularly connect to public Wi-Fi networks, or are planning on travelling soon, you need to take steps to ensure that you don't fall prey to this attack.

First of all, make sure you install all available updates for software on your PC before you leave home, and that your anti-virus software is running and has the latest virus definitions installed. If you see a web browser pop-up telling you that you need to install a software update, then ignore it. Most legitimate software will contain its own built-in updating screen, and will not rely on your web browser.

If staying in a hotel, you should check with the reception desk to find the correct name of the hotel's Wi-Fi network, and avoid connecting to any other networks that might be available in the area. If your hotel provides both Wi-Fi and cabled connections, go for the cabled connection as it will be more secure.

If you think that the worst has happened and your PC has been hacked while you are away - then immediately hibernate the machine and don't use it again until you get home to prevent further damage. Once you do get home, give it a full malware scan with your anti-virus software and remove any infections found.

All the best.

Stefan Johnson, Editor-in-Chief
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Re: worth a read may save you a lot of bother.

Postby cerina » 17 May 12, 6:35 pm

That's why I have a dongle ... not that I am usually away from home long enough to need to connect. I can usually manage a couple of hours without a connection. :mrgreen:
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