Any computer that connects to the Internet, or that connects to a network that connects to the Internet, should run some programs for general protection.
The most important category of program for protection is antivirus. Antivirus programs stop viruses from attacking your system, and help you recover if you are attacked by a virus.
The leading antivirus products are VirusScan from McAfee, www.mcafee.com, and Norton Antivirus from Symantec, www.symantec.com.
A firewall is another type of program useful for protecting your PC. A firewall program protects your resources by filtering network packets. If your computer is connected to a network that is not protected with a firewall, or if you are taking a computer on the road, you probably should use a personal firewall program for added protection.
Because new viruses come on the scene so quickly, it is vitally important to keep your virus definitions up to date. If your antivirus program comes with an automatic update feature, you should make sure that this is turned on and operational. Otherwise, make sure to go online and update your virus definitions frequently. An antivirus program with out-of-date definitions is almost as bad as no protection at all.
There are a number of good personal firewall products on the market, including offerings from McAfee and Symantec that come bundled with their antivirus products. Other personal firewalls worth considering include Personal Firewall from Tiny Software, www.tinysoftware.com, Sygate Personal Firewall from Sygate Technologies, www.sygate.com, and Zone Alarm, from Zone Labs, www.zonelabs.com.
In addition, Windows XP comes with personal firewall software, with the grand virtues that it is free and (if you have Windows XP) you already have it.
To activate the Windows XP personal firewall, if you are using a wireless connection, first use the Control Panel to open the Network Connections applet.
In Network Connections, highlight the wireless device used for your Internet connection, and choose Properties from its context menu. The Wireless Network Connection Properties dialog will open.
You can also use the Network Setup Wizard to turn on the Windows XP personal firewall. The Network Setup Wizard can be started by clicking Set Up a Home or Small Office Network on the Network Tasks pane of My Network Places.
On the Advanced tab of the Wireless Network Connection Properties dialog, as shown in Figure 18.9, check the box under Internet Connection Firewall, and then click OK.
Figure 18.9. It's easy to turn on the personal firewall that ships with Windows XP.
The Internet connection will now be displayed as "firewalled" in the Network Connections window.
The Absolute Minimum
I hope this chapter has helped you learn how to practice safe computing with a Wi-Fi equipped mobile computer.
Here are the key points to remember from this chapter:
Protection from security problems is a mindset that requires awareness and alertness.
Social engineering is the biggest security threat.
Physical theft of laptops is a big problem, but there are some devices that can help with locking down your equipment.
You can enhance your safety by password-protecting your computer and disabling sharing.
If you need to access your home network from a public hotspot, setting up a VPN can enhance security.
You should run antivirus and personal firewall protection on mobile computers equipped with Wi-Fi.