There was a story on the front page of FoxNews.com this morning about the dangers of public wifi. (Click here to read) It's actually a pretty good story for the masses. They however did not address some of the quickest things you can do when traveling with mobile devices (laptops, PDA, smartphones, etc.) to improve security.
Change your firewall settings from "Private", "Home Network", "Work" or other settings to "Public Network". This automatically enables a stricter set of access restrictions which will help deter people from getting access to your network
Disable automatic Bluetooth pairing. This will keep someone from synchronizing with your system without your explicit approval.
Turn off any network sharing or media sharing while you are mobile. These protocols are ripe for exploitation and your device is broadcasting to the world "I have lots of open doors…come hack me!"
Keep your Anti-Virus definitions up to date. Even when on vacation, log in to a network and update your AV every couple of days. New threats are added daily and having definitions a week or more out of date is asking for trouble.
Don't be cheap. If you have a mobile device and it's important enough to keep with you at all times, buy access to a mobile data plan or a nationwide hotspot network. These are typically more secure and actively monitored for nefarious behavior. Consider the monthly cost an "insurance" policy against logging into a free hotspot hosted by a hacker. (BTW…if you have Qwest DSL, the 14,000+ AT&T hotspots nationwide are now free for you to use. (click here for details). Check with your ISP for similar offers.
I could go on and on but following these 5 tips will improve your security posture while traveling. Remember, most hackers are opportunists. They're not going to spend hours hacking into a system that's somewhat secure when 5 others next to you are wide open. You just want to be more secure than the dufus with sunscreen on his nose, sitting under the Hawaiian Punch umbrella next to you. Happy Vacationing!!!!