Time once again for the PR Piñata, a positive purgatory for the more pungent PR gifts one finds in the Duo mailbag. Tommy, from MSNland, writes: "I am upgrading my dial-up ... to ... DSL next week. My neighbor advises using a router, though I only have one computer, because the connection is always on.... He says [that not having one] makes the connection more vulnerable to hacking, and viruses.... I know they are not expensive, but should I really add another piece of equipment?"

Angela thinks Tommy's neighbor has a good idea. When your machine is connected directly to the Internet, it's potentially visible to and vulnerable to hackers--which is why the firewall he's running is absolutely essential. But a router adds more layers of protection.

A router hooks up directly to the Net, where it's visible to possible intruders--shielding your computer from would-be "visitors." The router hides what's plugged into it behind what are known as private Internet addresses, which aren't directly visible from the Net. And most routers come with firewall software of their own, which helps keep your machine hidden even better.

Routers are so cheap nowadays that adding one to your system is a no-brainer. And for sending the Duo that question, Tommy is now the proud recipient of a colorful light-up pen. For a crew that operates mainly in Word and over e-mail, these two sure get a lot of pens.

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