Monthly Archives: November 2004 - Page 2


I found this headline this morning on Google News.

What did I get from it?


Do you see shady characters like this guy at your local Starbucks? Chances are that at least one person in that Caffeine Valhalla is quietly sitting in his or her high-back seat, sipping a quad-latte, watching the Internet traffic of all the unsuspecting little online lambs.

A while back, I was one of those innocents. I used Starbucks/T-Mobile hotspots with regular conviction. What better joy than to have over 5,000 potential “offices” from which to work?

Lo and behold, my friend Joe walked in, set up his laptop next to me, got a latte and about 5 mins later, beckoned me to look at his screen. At first I was amused. Then I was worried – the worry someone gets upon realizing he’s left a stovetop burner on, or the front door unlocked. On Joe’s screen was all my Internet and email traffic since he’d arrived at Starbucks. My email account login info and passwords, the text of my emails, and even the text of websites that I’d visited – all neatly organized in a window on Joe’s demon laptop.

The tool? Packetyzer. One of many small, free, easy to setup programs that literally grabs the radio frequency traffic from your laptop to the Starbucks wireless router. It picks up everything – even chat traffic. Doesn’t matter if you have a firewall. I have two firewalls at highest security, and they did nothing to prevent Joe from learning more than I wanted him to.

Chances are, your fly is unzipped, too. You and thousands of other “Hot Spot” patrons.

The solution? Two choices. 1) Use a typewriter and the post office for your communications. 2) Download and use “HotSpotVPN” from It’s a service that allows you to link directly to their secure servers and encrypt all your email, chat and Internet activity. Packet sniffers get nothing but jarbled crap in stead of your credit card numbers, email passwords, etc.

Check it out. Again, Don’t let creepy people get your data.

P.S. Today I had some schmoe actually sit down behind me so he could watch me work on my computer! I stared him down, he promptly left, and then I wrote this post.


Even though it was below freezing outside, I was happy to go out before 6:00am and wait for this picture of the morning sun. I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.

Click to view the larger image.