surf safety

Hope this is the proper ng for this question. Can't find an answer for this on the net (well, I can find a LOT of answers but since the answers seem to vary to the extreme, I have no faith in any). I sometimes travel with a PDA, cell phone, or both. I enjoy keeping up on some news on the net and have used some free networks (e.g., Starbucks) to do my surfing. But I often read articles warning about how unsafe such behavior can be. Anywhere from someone sucking all the info from my PDA, to being connected to fake network, to 'just don't use a password,' to its all way overblown - don't worry. To date, my surfing has been visiting news sites - no passwords, no usernames, no SSNs. And I have seen no evidence anyone has sucked info from my PDA/cell (if I could tell). So here it is - how safe is it to surf free/public networks? Any precautions I can/should take?

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jay lunis
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