Public Wi-Fi network isn't secure at all

Help Desk

Plugged In

August 09, 2007|By Bill Husted | Bill Husted,Atlanta Journal Constitution

How secure is an unencrypted public Wi- Fi connection?

- Leon Bricker, Woodstock, Ga.

A public network isn't secure at all. I've watched passwords and e-mails roll by while sitting in a coffee shop with a security expert. We used a free program - available for download on the Internet - and an ordinary laptop.

It's a mistake to use these wireless networks to do banking or pay bills. I think even casual browsing using a public network is asking for trouble.

My subscription to Norton Anti-Virus is expiring, and I don't want to pay $50 to renew it. I am not protected against viruses now. Do I really need a firewall and anti-virus protection on an old system?

- Marilyn Norton

If you spend even a few minutes online - old system or new - you need a firewall and an anti-virus program.

There are free alternatives when it comes to anti-virus protection, including the excellent AVG program from Grisoft available for download at I also like Avast at

Versions of Windows starting with XP have a built-in firewall. To make sure it's enabled, type "firewall" in the help section. You can also find free firewall software on the Internet, including Comodo at

On my PC I have Norton Anti-Virus. A while back, I had some work done on my PC and when I got it back, it had Spybot Search & Destroy and also Ad-Aware SE on it. Do I need all these programs? My PC is used for the normal household situations.

- Jerry Latzke

I'm a big fan of SpyBot and Ad-Aware. Maybe it helps to know that the task they perform is different from that of Norton Anti-Virus.

The two new programs are used to find adware and spyware in your computer. You could probably get by just fine with either, but there's no harm in running both.

You'd never want to use two anti-virus programs, but these two anti-adware programs get along just fine. In fact, one will often find stuff the other misses.

Bill Husted writes for The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

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