Q: I believe you have cautioned readers not to use public Wi-Fi for accessing financial accounts. Why is that a concern if the server you...

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Q: I believe you have cautioned readers not to use public Wi-Fi for accessing financial accounts. Why is that a concern if the server you connect to uses 128-bit encryption?

Eldon H. Graham, Bellevue

A: It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the National Security Agency is able to crack 128-bit encryption. But, no, I wouldn’t worry too much about your average hacker cracking your transmission.

That said, there are other things to worry about when connecting via an unsecure public Wi-Fi connection. First, as long as you’re connected, even though the encrypted transmission might be secure, a hacker can still access other things on your computer.

And before you establish that encrypted link with your financial institution you generally have to send a password. Password transmission is one of the things for which hackers scan when they monitor traffic on public Wi-Fi networks.

It’s a dangerous world out there.

Q: I am a Comcast customer and use Outlook 2003 to view e-mail. Sometimes, when I’ve not used my computer for a few days then try to access e-mail, my Inbox will indicate I have 20 e-mails, but only five of them are actually there. Plus some e-mails I’ve already opened and read but not deleted are missing and are not in the Deleted Items file.

I can’t access the e-mails in Comcast because they aren’t there anymore. I’ve searched in various Outlook files trying to find the missing e-mails but I can’t find them.

Then after a few weeks, the missing e-mails show up along with the previously opened e-mails that had disappeared. Do you have any ideas on how I can address this problem?

Monty Berke, Burien

A: Sounds pretty strange. My advice would be to make sure you’re not applying a filter or custom view. Outlook allows users to set custom views that display only messages matching specified criteria.

This feature is accessed on the View menu by selecting Current View then Customize Current View. You’d want to make sure the program lists “none” under Filter.

If you have any concern about your e-mail actually disappearing, you may want to make sure Outlook doesn’t remove them from your Comcast mail server when it checks e-mail. To do so, go to the Tools menu and selection Options.

Next, click on the Mail Setup tab and then on the E-mail Accounts button. Select the account you want to configure and then click on More Settings.

Finally, click on the Advanced tab and then select the check box next to “Leave a copy of messages on the server.”

After that, you’ll be able to see all your messages on your Web interface with Comcast.

The downside is that messages will have to be deleted in both the Web interface and in Outlook when you want to get rid of them.

Q: You recently answered a question by saying Windows Live Hotmail could be downloaded onto a local (home) computer using Microsoft Outlook. Can Live Hotmail also be downloaded into Microsoft Outlook Express?

In looking at the Live Hotmail demo it appears that the answer is no. (Microsoft Office Outlook isn’t the same as Outlook Express is it?)

Also, I will be changing my Internet service provider provider and have set up a Gmail account.

If I want to set up my Gmail account to download messages into Outlook Express, will the existing information in Outlook Express (saved messages, contacts, folders, etc.) remain in place, with new Gmail messages just pulled in, or will setting up this new account/process wipe out the existing information in Outlook Express?

K. Knoller

A: As it happens, only paid Hotmail accounts worked with Outlook Express. (And yes, Outlook and Outlook Express are different programs. Outlook comes as a part of the Microsoft Office suite. Outlook Express is a free application.)

As for getting things set up with your new Gmail account, when you set up Outlook Express to download messages from Gmail your current folders, saved messages and contacts will not be affected.

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by e-mail to pmarshall@seattletimes.com or pgmarshall@pgmarshall.net, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.