Sound Off

I've heard that without having physical access to my computer, someone could set something up so they could read my e-mail or my Web surfing history. Is that indeed true?

"Unfortunately, this is sometimes true," said Jacob Kaplan-Moss, World Online programmer. "If you're using wireless Internet and you don't have any sort of encryption enabled, then anyone with another wireless card on your network can see all unencrypted traffic that flows across the network. This isn't true of wired networks. Someone would need physical access to your computer or your network to 'snoop' on wired traffic.

"Also unfortunate is the fact that the 'basic' wireless security protocol (called 'WEP') is notoriously insecure. It provides protection against casual snoopers, but not determined thieves. Luckily, there's a newer and more secure protocol called 'WPA' that most wireless cards support these days. Thus, you should never send sensitive information over email or instant message when using wireless networks that don't use WPA security.

"This is especially a problem at public access points, which usually do not use any sort of security. I never send sensitive information via email when using a public access point."

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