This evening I’m in a motel in Colby, Kansas, and the wifi user agreement includes some language which caught my attention:

SECURITY OF YOUR ACCESS AND USE

Due to the nature of wireless LAN and High Speed Internet Access networks, control of physical access to the network cannot be ensured. In the case of wireless networks, unlike a wired network where a physical connection is required, anyone within range of a wireless access point can conceivably send and receive frames as well as listen for other frames being sent, making eavesdropping and remote sniffing of wireless LAN frames very easy. In addition, under certain circumstances, third parties could access your computer without your permission while it is connected to the network.

What’s the answer to this quandary? Using a personal or organizational / corporate VPN is one reasonable response. WiTopia is an option Alec Couros recommended to me last month. I haven’t taken the plunge yet, but given my upcoming travel schedule I think it would certainly be a good idea. OpenVPN is an open source, cross-platform option as well.

Are you using a personal VPN when you connect online via public wifi access points? If so, have you had bad experiences with identity theft or other hacking intrusions, or are you just being proactively safe?

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