This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with leading professionals. In this series of blogs, I have an exclusive interview with Barb Bowman. Barb is an internationally acknowledged home networking and device authority; Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) - Windows Networking and Windows XP Media Center.
Barb: More and more people are running secure wireless networks at home but totally neglect the very real risks when they travel (or even visit a local Starbucks) and use wireless networks. I'd like to share some recommendations on bolstering security in these environments. If you travel with a laptop and connect wirelessly, you need to take extra precautions. Most public wireless providers and hot spots use no security at all. Everything you send and receive is sent in the clear with no encryption.
- If you use a VPN connection to your office, you will have the protection of an encrypted tunnel. If you can't use a VPN tunnel to your office, consider using a Remote Desktop connection to a computer you've left running at home. You can use Vista Ultimate or Business (32 or 64 bit), Windows XP Professional, Media Center Edition or Tablet PC Edition as a Remote Desktop host machine but not Vista Home Premium or Basic and Windows XP Home. Vista Home Premium, Vista Basic, and Windows XP Home, however, can be used as the remote client.
- If you are going to do this, you really want to use a router/gateway (and honestly, you don't ever want to connect a computer directly to a broadband modem). You'll need to forward port 3389 to this computer (see the router docs). To make this easy to do, get yourself a free domain on www.dyndns.com and get a router that has easy transparent support for DYNDNS.
For details on using dyndns, see:
http://www.dyndns.com/services/dns/dyndns/howto.html and http://www.dyndns.com/services/dns/dyndns/
- When connecting to a new public network (hotels, municipal, etc.) be sure to specify Public when prompted on any version of Windows Vista.
- Configure the Vista or Windows XP SP2 Firewall to be on with no exceptions. Vista users should also turn off all file and print sharing in the Network and Sharing Center window. If you are using Windows XP Home edition, turn off file and print sharing on your laptop when you travel. If you are using any other version of Windows XP, turn off Simple File Sharing.
- Don't visit any website or use any program that lets you send passwords, account numbers or other sensitive information in the clear. Use SSL connections for email. If you don't know how to configure Outlook Express or other email client for SSL or if your ISP does not support this, it is probably your ISP has a secure SSL based webmail application that you can use. If in doubt and there is a choice for secure or encrypted versus normal or non secure, always select the secure version. SSL sites normally have URL's that begin with https://
- Use online banking with care. Most banks offer SSL online access. Read the fine print carefully.
- Only use online merchants who provide a secure SSL site. Internet Explorer and most other browsers will display a padlock icon on the bottom status bar when accessing a SSL secured site.
Look for more with Barb in the next blog.
I encourage you to share your thoughts here on these interviews or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.