Unsecured Wireless Networks and Readers' Responses

I'll address reader responses to the April 26 Commentary about synchronizing Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). Thanks to everyone who wrote. But first, let me draw your attention to a story that broke last week in the Wall Street Journal: "Silicon Valley's Open Secrets," April 27, 2001, page B-1. The story reports that a pair of hackers carrying a notebook PC equipped with an 802.11b wireless Ethernet card has been touring Silicon Valley, browsing unsecured corporate LANs at will.

There's no excuse for such unsecured LANs. Microsoft provides VPN software in both Windows Me and Windows 2000 (though not with Windows CE)—and just as you can use a VPN to provide a secure connection over the Internet, you can also use it to secure a wireless LAN. I'll write about the details in a forthcoming Wireless & Mobile column in Windows 2000 Magazine. In the meantime, if you operate an 802.11b (or HomeRF) LAN, take a hard look at just how secure it is—or isn't.

Reader Response: Synchronizing PDAs
Thanks especially to Mike Walsh, who wrote from Helsinki, Finland. Mike has already tried the approach I recommended about sharing a .pst file, but he warns that problems might occur if more than one user tries to open the file at the same time. He recommends instructing users to copy the file for individual use—which certainly makes sense.

Ken Pruett suggests that small organizations and individuals check out Yahoo's calendar and address-book features, which can be synchronized to a PDA using Yahoo Intellisync. This method lets you access your calendar and address book from any place with Internet access. Ken also suggests (as did several others) that those who have Microsoft Exchange 2000 Server use a public folder. Stefanie Mashburn also uses Intellisync—and mentioned public folders. And Gary Bidgeman wrote from London to recommend Extended Systems XTNDConnect (recently acquired by Palm), but he commented that although XTNDConnect works just fine, it doesn't co-exist peacefully with ActiveSync.

Thanks to Mike, Ken, Stefanie, Gary—and everyone else who wrote. Unquestionably, public folders make sense for those who use an Exchange Server back end. And Intellisync synchronizes with private folders more effectively than either Palm's HotSync or Microsoft ActiveSync out of the box. I'm continuing work on a test-bed to let me take a first-hand look at server-based solutions—more about that soon. Stay tuned.

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