Connecting to a hot spot can be an open invitation to danger. Hot spots are public, open networks that practically invite hacking and snooping. They use unencrypted, insecure connections, but most people treat them as if they are secure private networks.
This could allow anyone nearby to capture your packets and snoop on everything you do when online, including stealing passwords and private information. In addition, it could also allow an intruder to break into your PC without your knowledge.
Now that you’ve begun panicking, there are several things you can do to protect yourself, including making sure ad hoc mode is disabled, turning off file sharing, turning off “Network Discover” (Vista), and using a Virtual Private Network. Info on how to accomplish all of this (and more) is at Computerworld. —MEGHANN MARCO