Back to Newsletter Archive page
CNET Community help and how-to weekly newsletter
July 18, 2008
Dear CNET members,

Happy Friday folks! I hope everyone is doing well. This week's topic is on the safety concerns of using public Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) and was submitted by Margaret. For those of you who are new to using Wi-Fi publicly, pay attention because there is a lot of great information provided by our members that will likely help you learn the dos and don'ts. Let's get started.

Public Wi-Fi access (free or paid) is one of those services that I find invaluable, and I really can't imagine being without it now. In fact, a few times in an emergency, it saved me because I dearly needed Internet access. Margaret, I remember the first time I used public Wi-Fi access. I was skeptical and hesitant and never knew what to expect; after all, it was public and information in the airwaves can be captured. So I'm glad you asked and shared your concerns and want to know more about this topic. While I will let our members' answers address your questions (a few picks below in the Q&A), I do have a few pointers that I'd like to share. Margaret, you ultimately are the first line of defense for staying safe and a little common sense goes a long way. So make sure you have a firewall set up and running. Keep your antivirus protection up to date and your sensitive data secured--even separately on a drive that is not connected to your laptop when accessing public Wi-Fi. Free Wi-Fi service is great. Paid Wi-Fi may be a bit safer (offering you better protection since most have encryption in place), but a wired connection is always best. But then again, wired or wireless--there are no guarantees. And when accessing public Wi-Fi (free or paid), don't transmit anything that you wouldn't write on a postcard and send for the world to see, unless it is absolutely necessary. So with that said, good luck with your first experience, and I hope it is a positive one.

We have many great answers in place for you from our members--ranging from technical setup to ensuring your safety for using public Wi-Fi to some general good practices. So read on up and learn! For all members, if you have any additional dos and don'ts about accessing public Wi-Fi, please join us in this week's discussion and share a little about your public Wi-Fi experiences--good or bad. The more we advise one another, the more we'll all be safer using public Wi-Fi services with confidence. Thanks everyone! And have a great weekend!

Lee Koo
Manager, CNET community

Got suggestions? Send me an e-mail:
Member Question of the Week
Q Please help. I'm taking off on road trip across the country soon for about a month and I'm lugging my laptop along for the ride to check e-mail, get maps and directions, and everything in between to make the best out of my trip. I will be using a wireless connection to access the Internet at hotels, Starbucks, and other hot spots that are available, but my concern is always security in these public areas. At home I know my wireless connection only allows me to be connected to it, but when I'm out there in the open, how vulnerable am I? I see people using Wi-Fi all the time at coffee shops and airports, but I always wonder how do they make their system safe from intrusions or threats?! Maybe they don't. Regardless, I'm not willing to take any chances. So is there like a list of public Wi-Fi do's and don'ts when using it to ensure my laptop's safety? I would love to get a check list of items I will need to do to ensure my information on my laptop is not compromised. Can you please help me out here?
Submitted by: Margaret K.
Q  Just some member contributions to get you started, but please read through the all answers!

Do's and don'ts for using public Wi-Fi
--Submitted by: Ankit B.

Using public Wi-Fi safely
--Submitted by: Watzman

Securing your computer
--Submitted by: Zouch

Quick safety tips...
--Submitted by: RobertWFrei

Read all member contributions

Thanks to all who contributed!

Most helpfulPrevious week's Q&A
Q Hi! I hope you can help me out. I'm in the process of buying a new computer and it's already pretty difficult to figure out what's what with specs and all, but the two bit (pun intended) is figuring out the differences between 32-bit versus 64-bit processors. I can only assume the 64-bit processor is faster, or am I wrong? I'm not very tech savvy, but I would like to know if it's something I need to consider when making my new system purchase. The other one bit (pun intended again) has to do with Windows Vista, do I go 32-bit or 64-bit version? Are there any advantages of going with Vista 64-bit? Please help me out, I'm really confused here and I would love if you could give some simple explanations to clear up this whole bit between the processor and Vista. One more thing, will buying a 64-bit PC be somewhat future proofing my new desktop purchase? Thank you all for your help!
    Thanks to all who contributed!
Check out next week's question:
Q I have been noticing a lot of people attaching their PC to their television now. Most people that I know are only using it as a monitor for their computer, but I know the technology is farther along than that. Having all my media on the hard drive seems like a great way to clear the shelves of the tacky CD & DVD cases, as well as a way to easily access media files. I would like to know how far along it is. Is using my PC as a component to my media center a viable option? Is it really expensive? What are some of the things that I'm not even aware of? Any info you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
--Submitted by: Phil G.
Check out our previous Community newsletters here.
Have a question?
E-mail us on one of our upcoming topics:
• Multimedia
• Internet Security
• Digital Cameras
• Home Audio & Video
• PC Upgrading
• PC Troubleshooting
• Digital Music
• Consumer electronics
Need help right away? Don't wait for us, come and join our lively community forums for all the tech help and how-tos.
Has your computer ever been compromised while accessing a Wi-Fi connection?
(Please click on button to vote)

 Possibly, but I'm not positive.
 I don't use Wi-Fi.
Simple question, simple answer
Help your fellow members
Every Thursday at 1 p.m. PDT (4 p.m. EDT),
CNET tech gurus, Brian Cooley and Tom Merritt
answer your calls and e-mails, offer their advice
and opinions, and provide tips on new gadgets
and gear. Tune in live on CNET TV and give us
a call at 1-888-900-CNET during our show. See previous episodes of CNET Live below.

Ask the editor Live! 
Every Thursday!
Got a burning tech question? Each Thursday from 11 a.m. to noon Pacific Time, we'll give you the chance to chat live with a CNET editor. We'll cover a new topic each week, from cell phones to TVs. Get those burning tech questions ready! Check out the event calendar!

Copyright © 2008 CNET Networks, Inc. All rights reserved.
CNET Networks, Inc.
235 Second Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

 Back to Newsletter Archive page