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One thing you should know is that WiFi hotspots are not secure. Anything submitted (password, email, URL) is sent unencrypted from your computer through the wireless access point to the Internet. That means that someone who really wanted to could "sniff" your passwords, confidential email, and any other information transmitted via the hotspot's Internet access. While this is of concern, it isn't something that someone could just stumble across. A person would have to purposely install the software to steal your data. Common sense and the following tips are the best protection:

  • Limit online activity to surfing and checking non-sensitive email.

  • Install and run a software personal firewall such as ZoneAlarm or Norton Personal Firewall. In Windows XP, Microsoft also makes a firewall available that you can use.

  • Turn off file and print sharing.

  • Use and update antivirus software.

If your spouse needs to work on finances or proprietary company data, install a VPN. Many companies offer their travelers VPN to encrypt transmitted data. And if sending your family out for surfing outside your turf becomes a regular part of the menu, you may want to spring for a VPN of your own. HotSpotVPN offers one for consumers for a monthly fee—$8.88 for an introductory period.

So when the family is raining on your Internet parade, send them out for Internet take-out. With today's standards, it's easy and you'll have your bandwidth all to yourself.

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