Is there anything you can do that doesn’t cost a bunch of money? Yes!
You can tell if you are on a SSL connection because the address will be HTTPS:// and its that little “S” that is important. Regular web connections use the HTTP:// and exchange a lot of data in plain text format including passwords and other sensitive information. With SSL that data is encrypted so the hackers just get more gibberish not data. Many sites like Google and Facebook do this automatically but keep an eye on that address bar.
Turn Off Sharing
When you're at home, you may share files, printers, or even allow remote login from other computers on your network. When you're on a public network, you should turn these things off, as anyone can access them. They don't even need to be a hacker. Depending on your setup, some of that stuff probably isn't even password protected.
To turn off sharing in Windows
Open your Control Panel, then browse to Network and Internet, Network and Sharing Center, and then click Choose Change Advanced Sharing Settings. Once here, you should definitely turn off file and printer sharing, and you may as well turn off network discovery and Public folder sharing. Some of this is done automatically by Windows if you specify the network as public when you first connect to the network.
To turn off sharing in OS X
Go to System Preferences > Sharing and make sure all the boxes are unchecked. You'll also want to turn off network discovery. This will prevent others from even seeing your machine on the network, meaning you're less likely to be targeted. On Windows it's just another check box under advanced sharing settings. On OS X, it will be called "stealth mode" and be under your firewall's advanced settings
Enable Your Firewall
Most Operating Systems come with at least a basic firewall nowadays, and it's a simple step to keeping unwanted local users from poking at your computer. You may already be using a firewall, but just in case, go into your security settings;
- On a Windows machine under Control Panel, System and Security, Windows Firewall.
- On a Mac under System Preferences, Security & Privacy, Firewall.
Make sure your firewall is turned on. You can also edit which applications are allowed access. For more information on firewall settings refer to the manufactures instructions for your OS. Your firewall is not an end-all, be-all protector, but it's always a good idea to make sure it's turned on.