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A friend of mine posed a question about how he could secure his laptop when connecting to public WiFi hotspots. He considers encryption of sensitive files a good idea and he has already downloaded a good encryption package.

Are there any good utilities which can monitor his WiFi adapter and let him know when intrusion attempts take place as well as block them?

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Intrusion via public wifi is probably a considerably lesser concern than sending data unencrypted. –  STW Aug 12 '09 at 15:03

5 Answers 5

Best free security suites:

Comodo Internet Security

Its Defense+ HIPS performance exceeds commercial products and leads the class, it includes an excellent "memory firewall" feature, and it allows you to quickly switch between Defense+ security modes and configurations. Includes automatic updates. Installation can automatically configure your PC to use the Comodo SecureDNS (but you can do this without installing CIS).

It was the heaviest on memory resources of all top picks. The automatic installation mode popups are very annoying and much better handled in Online Armor. It also comes with an optional antivirus that bloats its download size to 3 times the other products. You get 3 pre-checked nags/options during installation. I didn't find Threatcast very active or helpful at all as of yet.

Online Armor Free (the commercial version is my favorite)

Excellent proactive security performance. Includes a "run safer" feature to reduce rights for specific risky applications, a helpful security wizard to minimize popup alerts, and the ability to monitor key logger activity and host files. It handles the installation of new programs better than any other tested product. You can also close its tray icons to save memory and it still functions fully.

It doesn't have automatic updates or a built-in help. It's mandatory to enter an email during installation, and it has a pre-checked option to send it anonymous information. I also noticed an advertisement popup for its commercial product (but I could check to disable them). Windows Vista gave me two security warnings during installation: "Windows can't verify the publisher of this driver software" (details: some OA drivers don't have a valid digital signature it seems, but OA is a safe application to install obviously).

PC Tools Firewall Plus

Provides excellent proactive security performance comparable to Comodo. The installation and initial setup is amazingly easy, the popup alert format is fairly simplistic, and the full screen or "game mode" works nicely to prevent popup alerts. Includes default profiles to quickly personalize network rules. Automatically updates.

Doesn't have an installation/training mode, so installing new programs can be frustrating. Some network profiles may not get perfect GRC stealth results, such as "home" for me (but it passed all my other inbound tests). It fails the Zemana key logger test in its default settings (but it passes the test when I disable "automatically allow applications with valid signatures"). Minimal built-in help, and doesn't break active connections. You also get a pre-checked option to install a Spyware Doctor evaluation during installation.

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It feels like overkill for a single system but Snort sounds like what you want, from what you're saying

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I second the VPN answer. You can use a ssh tunnel to your own home network and browse the net from there. It's much easier than a full VPN. Google "tomato ssh tunnel" and you'll see some variations. Once you setup putty, there is only one change to set in fire fox or Ie.

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Your best bet is probably to VPN to a remote/secure network.

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What you're looking for is called a Firewall. There are basic firewalls built into current operating systems. I see a few superuser questions that talk about the ones in Windows XP and Windows 7 if you're on either of those OSes.

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I think he wants something a bit more functional than just a firewall. If you remember the program Black Ice, that was a firewall which also had some nice intrusion attempt detection capabilities. I know the windows firewall logs all of this information, but I do not see it notifying you in cases where intrusion attempts are happening. I consider this a useful feature. If I thought someone was trying to hack my system the first thing I would do is turn the WiFi off and go somewhere else. –  Axxmasterr Aug 12 '09 at 16:29

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