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Protect Your PC on the Road

Staying connected while on the road is essential for many travelers, business or otherwise.

However, it's hard to hold on to the good life when you pick up a computer virus on your journey.

Using a computer at the airport, in coffee shops, hotels or other public places can complicate your life, not save it, if unprotected wireless computing gets you or your business in hot water.

Travelers are especially ripe targets for computer bugs, as they hop from unprotected networks around the country or overseas.

Email, Email Everywhere

In this multitasking world, we don't always have the luxury of avoiding the office when traveling for business or pleasure. And if you're pounding the pavement for your company, staying connected is most likely a requirement of your job. Wireless web-connected devices -- laptops, Palm pilots, BlackBerrys, PocketPCs and cell phones -- are ubiquitous, giving us no excuse not be connected.

And that number is going to increase. Internet guru and Google (GOOG) vice president Vint Cerf says the pervasiveness of Web-enabled devices will triple the number of worldwide Internet users from one billion to three billion by 2010.

The locations that offer Internet access is growing at a great pace as well. In addition to a business center, many hotels now offer in-room wired or wireless Internet service, often for free. Many coffee shops now have Internet access, and conference floors now frequently offer wireless access to conventioneers.

The problem is you can't count on these businesses to employ the latest security technology to protect your surfing.

Protect Yourself

Fortunately, there are some basic steps that travelers can follow to guarantee that their trips for business or pleasure will not include souvenirs like viruses, spyware or keyloggers.

First, if traveling for business, find out your company's policy for computing on the road. Many organizations have defined guidelines of how to handle data while traveling.

For example, the basic rules for using email on the road are the same as in the office: Don't open unexpected email attachments from strangers.

The reasoning is sound: Some viruses can send you email pretending to be from someone you know ("spoofing"), or email that may even look like it came from you.

And don't open any attachments you're not expecting, even if it's labeled "I love you."

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