Free Wi-Fi? Great! Here's How to Keep Your Data Safe

Last Updated Nov 16, 2009 4:09 PM EST

Yesterday, Dave told you about free Wi-Fi offerings from Bing, Google, and Yahoo. Gotta love free, right? Just one problem: public hotspots like these can pose a serious security risk.

Identity thieves and other miscreants may be lurking around, waiting for their chance to sneak into unprotected PCs -- like yours! So don't give them the chance. PC World lists five ways to protect yourself at public hotspots like Google's. Here's one example:

If you're conducting business or sharing sensitive information, it's best to use a virtual private network (VPN), which creates an encrypted, private link across a public network.
Good advice, but the author explains only what to do, not how to do it. Fear not: Business Hacks has your back. To learn more about VPNs, check out Consumerist's Idiot-Proof Way to Securely Use Public Wi-Fi and Web Worker Daily's Free VPN Solutions.

The other tips are worthwhile, but I really think the VPN option is the most bulletproof solution. Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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    Rick Broida, a technology writer for more than 20 years, is the author of more than a dozen books. In addition to writing CNET's The Cheapskate blog, he contributes to CNET's iPhone Atlas.