Due to everyone and their rival giving away wifi for the holidays, the folks at PC World put together a timely list of simple ways to keep yourself and your data safer when you access that free broadband. It ranges from the obvious, like don’t do your banking at public hotspots, to the more advanced, like if you must do your banking at public hotspots, set up VPN or at least make sure the hotspot uses WPA2 (“VPN? WPA2? Is that like LOL or WTF?”). It’s a good checklist even for experienced mobile users, especially if you use multiple computers with different system setups.
One other thing I’d add is to avoid ad-hoc connections and hotspots with names that are blatantly alluring. At half the airports I’ve visited, I’ve stumbled across an ad-hoc connection named “Free wireless Internet” or something to that effect. Those aren’t hotspot connections but rather are from another person’s computer, most likely set up with the intent to get into yours. I go so far as to turn off my wifi and not connect at all when I see that. No telling what other data skimming activities that guy is trying to do.