To the wireless network owner somewhere in New Jersey: thanks for letting us tap into your system.

That thank you letter is not going to be written, but it could be. For while killing two hours in a pediatrician's office, I was able to be productive via the world of the wireless.

Part of this was based on advice from California CPA Dave Cieslak who suggested that if I really how wanted to see how bad wireless security is, just sit in a hotel lobby and see how many networks are unprotected. In this office, the answer was two, and I quickly got online and began browsing the Web. (I am assuming that the pediatricians do not provide Wi-Fi service to customers the way Starbucks does.)

It's somewhat frightening how easy this all was. I first noticed the connections when I was sitting in my living room with a new laptop. Not being used to having a system like this, it took a while what was happening.

Generally, having someone ride along on your system doesn't mean the data is at risk, although if I were a sophisticated hacker, it could be. The real lesson is that security is usually a matter of doing something with the tools at hand, instead of ignoring the issue.

It reminded me of an event about 11 years ago when I received a recycled computer. Among the prior users was the company's president. There was nothing terribly earthshaking on it--in one file he outlined the compensation plan for his newest product. But this was only the formula, not the actual dollars. There were also a few out-of-date spreadsheets with P&Ls for some minor products.

More recently, somebody put me on an email list whose other members included vice presidents and general managers of a sister company. The unsolicited information included financial statements, a discussion of the shortfall in revenue, and possible acquisition candidates. While I couldn't incorporate the information in a story, it was very educational.

Now, you may think these things are all unrelated. But when you put your data out there in an unprotected form, you may be sending it so someone like me who will really enjoy reading it, or just maybe goes along for a free ride. Of course, there are some who will do more than just enjoying.

That's the real problem.

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