Protect Your Computer and File Shares
Originally wireless networks were designed with only private-use in mind, within homes and businesses where the users are "trusted". Though the ability to share files and printers is one of the defining benefits of Wi-Fi, its one of the dangers of public Wi-Fi hotspots where the users aren't "trusted". Some hotspots are setup using hotspot gateways that block sharing, but many hotspots are implemented using regular Wi-Fi equipment. However, you can ensure your computer and documents are safe by following these precautions:
Classify the Hotspot as Public in Vista or Windows 7
When first connecting to wireless networks in Windows Vista and 7, you're prompted to classify its type as either Public or Private (Work or Home). Then Windows chooses the appropriate networking and firewall settings, such as disabling file and printer shares when connected to a Public network.
If you need to change the network classification or type after the initial configuration during the first connection, access the Network and Sharing Center.
Disable File and Printer Sharing in Windows XP
If you're still using Windows XP, you'll have to manually disable sharing. To do this, access the Network Connections window by right-clicking the network status icon in the system tray or by clicking Start > Connect To > Show all connections.
Then double-click the connection you're using, uncheck the File and Printer Sharing for Microsoft Networks option, and click OK. When you get back home or to the office, you can re-enable the option to get sharing back.
Ensure Windows Firewall Is Enabled
Being connected to hotspots also opens your computer up to general intrusion attempts from local hotspot and Internet hackers.
Thus you should ensure that you have Windows Firewall or another firewall solution enabled while on public networks.
Things to Remember
I discovered many things to help protect data and privacy while surfing at Wi-Fi hotspots. Remember; try to independently secure your services.
Also consider using a VPN service of some type to encrypt all your Internet communications from local eavesdroppers. Plus make sure that you aren't sharing with the other hotspot users.