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If you use a free Wi-Fi connection in an airport, cafe, hotel or some other public space, you may be taking a big risk with your credit card information and other types of important data.

But the good news is there are steps you can take to secure your information.

"The speed of technology has far outpaced the security of the technology," said Robert Siciliano, CEO of Boston-based IDTheft We forgo security for convenience because we say we don't want to spend an entire Saturday in the office or on a wired connection at home.

Firesheep helps users capture a Wi-Fi user's "cookies" -- or Internet history tracking data -- and use those cookies to gain access to a user's sessions on e-mail and social networking accounts.

Capturing this data allows fraudsters to "sidejack" you, pretending they are you and gaining access to whatever information you've provided the site.

How to stay safe To prevent cookie sidejacking while using public Wi-Fi, experts say users can do a number of things to protect themselves.

For example, Protecting smart phones The growing market of smart phone users should also be aware that their devices can become subject to the same sidejacking attacks when they switch from their 3G carrier to a wireless hot spot.

"Really make sure that you are careful about your Internet habits," Bower said.

"Don't just e-mail your credit card information, even if a hotel or merchant is asking you to do that." And, Bower says, be careful about which links you click because the links can download and launch malicious programs onto your computer.

Please help us keep our community civil and respectful.

For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers.

"Once you start fresh, you can begin at the beginning," Siciliano said.

"That's not even an option for us as human beings when we get sick, but that is an option for us as PC users." See related: Secrets of a former credit card thief, 7 reasons your credit card gets blocked, 6 ways to protect your credit cards when traveling, Debt collectors turn to social networks, When you should, shouldn't give out your Social Security number, Solve credit card problems through Twitter, Follow Credit on Twitter We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users.

"The more likely dynamic is that 3G becomes overloaded and, because of that load, it slows down and customers start to look for alternatives.

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