Using an Unsecured Network – Wifi Network Security

Computer Security Warning – Using An Unsecured Network

How does choosing a network location affect Wifi network security on an unsecured network?  If you have a laptop, you probably enjoy going to your local coffee shop to surf the web while sipping on some coffee.  As you probably already know, most coffee shop Wireless networks are unsecured networks. This means that information you send and your activities on the computer or online can be visible to others. There is no encryption on an unsecured network, which means personal information can be intercepted and captured by others.

When you connect to a network you are usually given an option by your computer to select your network location. The location you choose will apply the pre-set network security settings for the network location you specify. This is where you have control over whether or not you want to make your computer visible to others on the network.

Settings For A Secured and Unsecured Network

There are two main network location settings:Image: Network Security

  • Public (coffee shops, hotels, airports, libraries etc.)
  • Private (Home & Work)

I know sometimes there is a mix up about which does what, so hopefully I can clarify that here. The simplest way to think about this is that the “Public” settings “put the guard up.” The “Private” settings “put the guard down” and lets others discover your computer on your home, office or public network. The “Private” settings reduce network security for your PC. This is because your computer is set to “assume” by default that you are using a home or work network which has already been secured. The “Public” setting increases network security because it is assumed that you are using an unsecured network, perhaps in a coffee shop.

What happens when you use the “Private” settings in a coffee shop? Basically, since your computer becomes visible to others on the network, it becomes open to virus attacks and hacking attempts. If you have file sharing enabled, someone can get access to your personal files with no sweat. So before you connect to any publicly shared network, you want to make sure that your firewall is working properly. You also want to make sure you choose the “Public” location settings to boost security and protect your PC and your personal info while using an unsecured network.

Before someone can attack your computer via an unsecured network, they first have to be able to find your computer on the network. Choosing the “Public” network location settings prevents such discovery, which can give you peace of mind and less stress when using unsecured wireless networks. That is one way of getting network security on an unsecured network. If you previously enabled file sharing, I would also recommend that you disable it, even when using a “password protected” public network. A password protected network (like in most hotels) may prevent unauthorized access to the network. However, it does not protect your computer from attacks within the network. So use the right settings and stay safe and worry free.