Wi-Fi hot spots are a great convenience for traveling entrepreneurs and their employees. But it's up to you to make sure your data is safe when you're signing on from distant locales. Mobile security has several basic elements. Equipping yourself and your mobile employees with antivirus, firewall, message encryption and VPN software is optimal.
If you can't afford VPN capabilities, a new option is available from third-party provider HotSpotVPN (www.hotspotvpn.com), which will encrypt and cloak your activity for only $8.88 per month, per user. That can tide you over until you set up VPN tunnels of your own or if your employees only occasionally make use of Wi-Fi hot spots.
Many hot-spot providers are making efforts to provide more built-in security in advance of new standards expected later this year. Wireless Provisioning Services (WPS) will allow for easier hot-spot detection and secure log-ons, and should be available as a Windows XP update by the time you read this, later for other operating systems.
WPS will roll up into 802.11x, a new Wi-Fi security protocol, in a month or two. Some hot-spot providers like T-Mobile are already rolling out 802.11x support, even though the standard isn't expected to be ratified until this summer. Check with your hot-spot provider to see if it supports the new standard. In the meantime, turning on your Wi-Fi adapter's current security and using a VPN solution are your best bets for keeping your business data private.