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Connecting to the internet in public incurs additional security risks regardless of the specific computing device you use. You’re in close proximity with people you don’t know, which could include hackers trying to use your access without your permission. This occurrence could increase your mobile bill if the additional data usage causes you to exceed the maximum for your data plan. Improving the security of your mobile hotspot can help you avoid this scenario.
1. Use Strong Encryption.
The default settings for mobile hotspots aren’t always the most secure, even when more secure settings are available. For example, the default encryption for a mobile devices could be an obsolete standard like Wireless Equivalent Privacy (WEP). The reason for this practice is that mobile device manufacturers must balance security against compatibility with older devices that don’t support the latest encryption standard. Change your encryption setting to Wi-Fi Protected Access II (WPA2) if available, as it’s usually the most secure encryption that hotspot providers offer.
2. Change Your Hotspot’s SSID.
Change the default service set identifier (SSID), which is the name of the wireless hotspot’s network. Avoid using words, as hackers routinely use pre-computed hash tables known as rainbow tables, which contain the pre-shared keys (PSKs) of many common SSIDs.
3. Create a Strong Wireless Network Password.
The possibility of rainbow table attacks also means that your wireless network password needs to be easy to remember but difficult to guess. It should be a long string with few actual words to resist hackers using brute-force methods.
4. Enable Blocking and Port-Filtering.
Some mobile hotspots allow you to enable port filtering, meaning you can deny services such as email, FTH and HTTP based on what you want to do with your hotspot. In general, you should deny all services that you don’t specifically need to minimize the paths that attackers could use to access your network, technically known as attack vectors. A common method of accomplishing this goal for mobile devices is to use a Wi-Fi app that scans for open ports, which can help determine if open ports is something you even need to worry about.
5. Protect Your Network Password and Change It Often.
The people you allow to access your network can vary considerably in how they use it. Many of them may exercise responsibility by only using it on a limited basis, but others may use your network to binge on Netflix. In the latter case, you could end up footing a hefty bill for their entertainment. If you share your network password with a large number of people, be prepared to change it frequently to keep your data usage under control.
6. Consider Smartphone Hotspots.
You can probably use your smartphone to create a hotspot that moves with you instead of a stationary hotspot. This capability should be built into your phone, although your service provider may need to activate it. Smartphone hotspots can typically support up to 10 devices at the same time, depending on your provider. However, this service will incur its own monthly fee and data rate, so you need to find out these details before asking for the service.
Wireless LAN flickr photo by FutUndBeidl shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license