If you dread, as I do, racking up massive amounts of global roaming charges on your smart phone, it can be tempting to jump to some hot spot to do your browsing and e-mailing instead of private cloud computing. But though most of us know to avoid performing our online banking, through the free Wi-Fi link at a public hot spot, it might come as a surprise to find out that paid, social networks set us at risk well, such as those located in cafés, airports, and even resorts. And although a lot people exercise caution with our computers, we are frequently guilty of making our phones and tablet computers exposed, which could lead us into trouble such as real time GPS tracking and network security issues. An issue which James Lyne, director of technology strategy for the British security-software developer Sophos, calls the “smart-phone invulnerability complicated”.

According to Marian Merritt, Internet security urge at Norton by Symantec (maker of Norton AntiVirus), both main risks you face when using a hot spot are having someone monitor your online moves via the network you’re logged onto or deceive you into having a “bogus” hot spot, either by offering it up for free or mimicking the title of a legitimate one. In both instances, a hacker can potentially view your passwords, e-mail, social networks, bank account, files, and more. Here is how to maintain this sensitive information in a secure way.

Ensure your software is up-to-date.

The first line of protection is making sure that all of your software is up-to-date. Essentially, every release of software patches a number of security vulnerabilities that are out there. Before each trip, or at least every couple weeks, it’s a great idea to check the company’s website (or search Google) to determine if a program or firmware update is available. When there’s a new one, download it, unless there is a massive amount of negative feedback from those who updated it prior to you.

Set up your phone’s security.

Switch off the wireless connection when you are not using it to remove the threat of mobile data capture. In addition, don’t forget that your device, particularly if it’s an Android, is vulnerable to malicious software. Norton, ESET, and Sophos all offer great mobile security and antivirus apps for smart phones.

Use long and strong passwords. Make your passwords hard to hack and unique, so if it is stolen it cannot be used to unlock other accounts. Use a digital password supervisor in case you have trouble recalling them all; Lyne recommends 1Password and LastPass.

Make sure that the network is encrypted and legit.

Do not presume that a hot spot is real just because the name that pops up on your mobile seems correct. If you are in a hotel or café, ask a manager to confirm the name of their own network and ask about whether the system is encrypted (i.e., locked and password protected). While online, remain on encrypted channels by using the web site prefix https (rather than http). Perform your own type of network performance monitoring to ensure you are using encrypted sites.

Use a VPN (virtual private network).

Even if you’re on a password-protected network, there’s still the risk that someone will intercept your transmissions. To guarantee absolute privacy, use a VPN service, which essentially produces a network-within-a-network only for you. Boingo offers a VPN via its subscription programs which lets you access more than 500,000 worldwide hot spots. The newest Norton Hotspot Privacy agency may also route all of your traffic through a private link.

Buy a data plan.

As a general rule (unless News of the World had you in its sights), your mobile network is protected. The two AT&T and Verizon have recently introduced affordable worldwide data roaming packages: When in doubt, stick to a wireless carrier.

Internet Security when using a public computer

When travelling you are not in the comfort of your own smart home, with your devices properly secured. Public computers are frequently a lot easier than carrying around your own devices. They are also easy to find. Look for a nearby internet café or ask your hotel if they own a computer for guests. However, you still have to be smart when using a public computer or some other public device.

          Do not use a public computer for jobs that require a login. As an example, checking train times or museum hours do not pose a threat, but logging into your bank account or checking your email can leave you vulnerable to hacking or theft.

           If you have to access a personal account, ensure that the Web browser you use will not store your login information and clear the history until you leave.

          For specific accounts, like a bank or email accounts, establish a two-step confirmation process. That way you are required to put in your password and a second code whenever you log in.

          Be conscious of your environment and keep your screen from view particularly when you’re entering any passwords or private information.

In case the worst does happen and your personal info is hacked or your own device gets stolen, make sure you are prepared.