The Merriam Webster dictionary defines Hot Spot as a place of more than usual interest, activity, or popularity. It then provides this example: A birding hotspot. The term “hot spot” actually dates back to 1929. It is interesting how we adapt often nature-derived terminology to other areas of activity and how meanings can remain relatively timeless.
Consider today’s usage. Several highway rest stations, hotels, restaurants and cafés bear a friendly sign inviting travelers and patrons to enjoy their free WiFi connection, also known as “hot spot”. Laptop bearing individuals flock there to conduct online business or casually browse the World Wide Web on the way to and from home or while sipping a good latté.
Birds gather at a “hot spot” because it provides the nourishment they require in the midst of their travels. Though the nourishment we secure from what we, humans, refer to as hot spots tends to be entertaining or intellectual in nature, isn’t it a form of nourishment nonetheless? As such, it leads to habits and cravings which, as you know, have the ability to cloud our best judgment.
As the flock of bird that leaves the general safety of branches and wires to feed on the ground may become exposed to predators, so too do we become vulnerable when we depart from our wired connections. Awareness and a few simple precautions can ensure a safe experience. Whether you tap into the hot spot on the road or from your home computer, here is what Wi-Fi.org recommends:
- Secure your home network: Turn on the security features of your network and consider installing a commercially-available firewall. Your network is open to intruders until you enable security.
- Protect yourself when using a public hotspot: Free public hotspots are by nature “open” and unencrypted. To reduce your exposure to unwanted risks, make sure that you are connecting to a legitimate hotspot – those that require a password have more protection than those that do not.
- Use a virtual private network or VPN: This establishes a private connection across the public network. You can purchase one.
- Doing your banking in a public hot spot is not advised. Surfing the web and sending e-mail is fine.
- Configure for approved connections: Configure your device to not automatically connect to an open network without your approval.
- Disable sharing: File and printer sharing may be common in business and home networks, but you can avoid this in public networks. Verify your settings.
- Install anti-virus software: When using a public hot spot, you have no assurance that other computers on the network are protected against viruses. It is important to have antivirus software installed.
- Use a personal firewall: When connecting to a public hot spot, you are joining a network with other unknown computers. This increases your exposure to unwanted risks. To protect yourself, run a personal firewall program.
Microsoft provides these additional safety measures:
- Hide your files: If you keep personal or financial information on your computer, consider investing in an operating system, such as Windows Vista, that includes the tools to protect your information through encryption.
- Don’t type in credit card numbers or passwords.
- Turn it off: Turn off your wireless connection when you are not using it, or work offline.
Now, you’ve heard the saying, often used in Real Estate, “Location, location, location”. Also bear this in mind when tapping into a hot spot. It so happens that while a vastly populated urban network may present more opportunity for invasion or less than ethical behavior, the hot spot at your village coffee shop is likely relatively safe.