My setup
-Windows 7 Home Premium
-use the built-in firewall
-UAC on max
-in Windows public wireless network settings, besides the default settings, I have 1)set to block all media streaming, and 2)turned off public file sharing
-fully patched Windows, Office, Firefox, Flash Player, Java, etc, etc....everything

-I always make 100% sure I connect to the expected wifi and not someone's laptop tricking people into using it as a wifi.

-Whenever I log into a site I care about, I always log in using https. All of my email accounts (gmail) use https. I really don't care if anyone sees my websurfing (forum posts, google searches, etc).

First, not talking about my AV product and whether it would detect and stop malware that makes it onto my computer, but
1) what are the chances of malware getting onto my computer from the lan/wifi? (not asking about malware coming from email, websites, flash drives, etc. Only asking about what could come from the public lan/wifi)

Next, assuming no malware go onto my computer at all, what (and how great) is the danger to
2) my data on my computer (from being stolen or viewed)?
3) the sensitive data I transmit using https being seen or stolen and unencrypted?

I'm asking for real world ("in the wild") dangers at random free wifi like Starbuck's etc, but not white paper theory or methods that require skill or equipment extremely unlikely to be encountered.

btw, I know there are further steps I could take for better security than the ones I mentioned above, however, for now, I need to get an accurate, but not overly paranoid, picture of where I stand with my current set up. I'm hopeful there are people here that can give me perspective.


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I have found that it is not the wifi sites that are dangerous (except for proxy redirects that they get infected with) but the sites you connect to once you get on the web that do the most damage. I typically spend my evenings running software to remove viruses from two to three customer systems running WIndows and almost every one of them is on Limewire, Aries or some other peer to peer (Virus) sharing service.

As far as what to do to prevent your computer form getting viruses... get off Windows unless you run it virtually under another OS. I moved my laptop to linux about a year ago have not been happier. Fedora Core 12 is a stable OS with excellent resources, good wireless and other driver support and 99% of the software is FREE... Open source versions that work faster and better than the Windows versions. The only reason I still use Windows is for my games but I run those in Sun/Oracles Virtual box in a virtual XP system that is blocked from internet access unless I let it. My computer boots faster, actually multi-tasks and is virus spyware and adware frre. Unless I am mistaken there are only about 30 Viruses for linux, compared to more viruses than people on the planet for Windows, because they just can't spread (unless you use weak passwords and then you deserve it).

I'll get off my soap box now and wish you good luck with your endeavour.

Thanks for the reply. So you're saying that with my setup, the biggest danger at unencrypted public access points is if the wifi access point was infected with a proxy redirecting malware? How can recognize it if I run across it? If I hardcode my DNS and WINS, would that make me immune?

Hardcoding the DNS would do a lot to prevent it. But I honestly do not think it would stop everything. If you still connect to a site that is infected it could get to your system. I think if there was a 100% positive way to prevent it somebody would be selling it like crazy.

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