The following link points to a simple and easy-to-follow guide on how to secure your web browsing experience over WiFi, using SSH encrypted tunnels. Keep in mind that whenever you use your laptop computer to connect to a WiFi network that you don’t own (Starbucks, McDonald’s, random unprotected access point, etc.), there is a possibility that someone on the network is running a network sniffer. Doing something as simple as opening your e-mail client can give them access to your passwords (POP3 has always been notorious for sending plain text passwords over a network).
While you may be thinking your e-mail password isn’t that important, think of how many private e-mails you receive, or how many times you type your credit card number online. While it is a bad idea to be shopping online via an untrusted Wireless hotspot in any situation, the following guide makes it a LOT safer, to the point where the most skilled network crackers won’t be able to get your data.
Click here to read the full guide. The guide is geared towards Windows users running Firefox and GAIM. The technique used will also work for Internet Explorer and regular AOL Instant Messenger. In the comments section, someone describes how to do the same thing on Mac OSX or Linux.
Do yourself a favor and keep this guide in mind any time you have to make a last-minute online purchase while using an untrusted access point (when I’m down the shore, I use an unprotected hotspot to trade stocks. While E*Trade has the standard web RC4 encryption which has never actually been broken, cracking into my e-mail would pretty much lead an attacker to discover the answers to my Forgotten password question, and then let them reset my password and retrieve it since they have access to the e-mail. I will be using this from now on!)