How to protect your privacy on Wi-Fi

A look at some reader mail: Q: If I use the Wi-Fi connection at a hotel or public area, how severe is the risk that someone can eavesdrop on my transmissions and receptions?

A look at some reader mail:

Q: If I use the Wi-Fi connection at a hotel or public area, how severe is the risk that someone can eavesdrop on my transmissions and receptions?

A: It is like anything else in the computer world.

Is it possible? Yes.

Is it probable? That is hard to say.

First, ask yourself if anyone wants to know your business. If you are IM’ing on AOL with your wife about your kids misbehaving, bandits will move on to another one of the other 400 rooms in the hotel.

A cracker looks for something of value —- a credit-card number, something for identity theft, something else interesting.

To thwart this, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to connect when you do anything even remotely private.

Your company may offer this software for you to use to connect to your office.

You can buy your own VPN for US$50 a year or more.

If you Google VPN, you will be inundated with offers.

If all you are doing is browsing the Web and answering routine emails (no credit-card info, nothing private, nothing you would not mind seeing on the home page of The Drudge Report), then don’t worry about it.

Q: I read your review of the Verizon MiFi. I tried one and I returned it a week later.

After using it awhile, are you sure about your review?

A: I still agree with it.

MiFi is not a perfect device, but I think it is as good as a PC Card or US Card and far more versatile, especially if you are grandfathered into the unlimited plan.

(For those who missed the review, the MiFi is a cellular router from Verizon that replaces traditional PC Cards for laptops and, instead, allows up to five connections on a card about the size of a cassette tape.)

Q: There are many reports online that the new version of Family Tree Maker 2010 does not work with Windows 7 64-bit edition. However, you reported no issues with your installation. Did you actually install yours?

A: Yes. Mine installed without a hitch and several friends had the same experience.

I can imagine that earlier versions of the product may have had issues.

That is the problem with online reviews: often the dates they were posted are obscure and they don’t go away when they are not relevant anymore.

James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer-repair firm and a tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His email address is jim@cyberdads.com