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12 downloads to super-charge and secure Wi-Fi

Free apps that will take the stress out of wireless

JiWire Wi-Fi hotspot finder for Windows XP

Here's a convenient, free way to find nearby hotspots when you need wireless access in a hurry. Run JiWire and enter your location (such as your post code or city), and it lists all nearby hotspots. The free program will search for either paid or free hotspots, or both. The program's database is frequently updated, so you're assured of getting an up-to-date list.

When you click on any listed hotspot, you see more details about it. For example, if it's from a pay-for provider, you'll see who owns it. You'll also receive basic information about the hotspot, such as its SSID, pricing plan, and so on. You can also display a map showing the hotspot, so you can easily make your way to it.

A pay-for version of this software, called JiWire Hotspot Helper, offers additional benefits. It keeps you safe by encrypting your connection whenever you're at a hotspot, and it also lets you use your email software to send messages at hotspots. (At many hotspots, you can't use your email software for sending because hotspot operators block outgoing messages, fearing that the hotspot could be used as a relay to send spam.) The pay-for version costs $25 (£12.50) per year.

AirDefense Personal Lite

Whenever you use Wi-Fi away from your home or office network, you're potentially open to attack. Plenty of dangers lurk out there, including scam networks masquerading as public hotspots, and ‘evil twins’, which are rogue duplicate networks set up at a public hotspot - they appear to be the real network, but in fact they're run by someone who waits for you to connect and then tries to break into your PC and steal your personal information.

AirDefense Personal Lite is a freebie that promises to help keep you safe. It monitors the networks to which you connect, and if they're potentially dangerous it issues warnings and offers advice on how to respond. It also alerts you if you tap into an unencrypted wireless network, or if you've linked to a wireless network that can use encryption but you haven't enabled it. It warns against lots of other things, as well, such as potential phishing attacks and even sudden changes in signal strength.

For a free program, this utility is surprisingly configurable. You can set your security level, you can add safe networks to a list so that the program won't issue warnings when you connect to them, and you can blacklist networks to prevent connecting to them even accidentally.

Note that installing this software takes some work. First you must go to the developer's site and fill out a form. Afterward you'll get a link via email to download the program. Unzip the file, and then run PersonalShellLite.exe to install it. When it runs, right-click the AirDefense Personal Lite icon in the system tray and choose Run Now. Finally, click it again and choose Show.

NEXT PAGE: More apps to make WiFi location and connection easier

  1. Free apps that will take away the stress of wireless connections
  2. JiWire Wi-Fi hotspot finder for Windows XP
  3. More apps to make WiFi location and connection easier
  4. Hotspot Shield and WiFi Guardian
  5. Why we love WiFi Hopper


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