Free Public Hotspots – DANGER

While sitting in a conference session the other day, Ponzi wanted me to help her get online. I opened her laptop and started to browse the list of various wireless networks in our vicinity. The ESSIDs were potentially misleading, including one that was called: “Free Public WiFi.” Oh boy. I’m not going to fall for that one, but how many others would (or did)? Never connect to a network if you don’t know who set it up – or who’s really on it. Yeah, all is not well and good in the land of wireless connectivity – free or not. There are too many nefarious users out there, ready to steal (or sniff) whatever it is you’re transmitting between your laptop and the access point. For this reason, and this reason alone, it’s becoming essential that you use a Bluetooth network connection over your mobile device (if you have one, and you’ve paid for an unlimited data plan). If you choose to roll the dice, then you might consider sticking to the basics – and doing everything over a secure connection. This problem is going to get worse before it gets better, I fear.

Right now, I’m sitting in the JetBlue terminal at JFK. There’s a handful of access points available, including one: “Jet blue hot spot.” Yeah, I’m going to trust a hotspot that doesn’t know how to spell “hotspot” – or the very company that sponsors it. Better yet, it’s only a peer-to-peer network. I wonder how many folks here have fallen victim to that trap? I’m upset that JetBlue did not specify the access point ID for their network anywhere! Turns out, “default” is what JetBlue is using for connectivity. Ponzi’s checking email over those airwaves, but I’m recommending that she change her password when we get back home. That’s the safe and smart thing to do, especially after potentially exposing it to whoever else is passing through this area. Nasty, evil, wrong, bad people – bad, horrible people. Technology doesn’t hurt people… people hurt people.

[tags]wireless,wi-fi,802.11b,wifi,hotspot,free wifi,wireless internet,essid,jetblue[/tags]

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Chris has consistently expressed his convictions and visions outright, supplying practical information to targeted audiences: media agencies, business owners, technology consumers, software and hardware professionals, et al. He remains a passionate personality in the tech community-at-large. He's a geek.