You can send emails and access the web from almost any public place these days. But should you? Public wireless networks are public because they do not require passwords to log in. They transport your bits and bytes of data in clear text, which means that anyone who has a mind to can intercept and access any of the information you are sending on the airwaves. The article Coffee shop WiFi for dummies provides lots of details.
Here are the key points in a nutshell:
Use a secure web browser. That means either Firefox or Safari, NOT Internet Explorer.
Do not log into web pages that contain personal data such as financial accounts with your credit card, bank account, or social security numbers.
If you do surf to these type of sites, make sure their addresses begin with https:// NOT http://. You will also see a locked padlock in the lower right corner of the browser window frame.
Checking email should be done through SSL. That’s a setting that we configure in Thunderbird here at Hampshire. To confirm that your Thunderbird is properly configured, see the Thunderbird settings quick reference guide. Webmail also uses encryption. If you use a different email client, look around in the Preferences or Options to find where to set it to SSL.