Coffee houses are great. Between the ambiance and the aroma of coffee, it’s a conducive place to buckle down and get work done.
On top of that, most coffee shops have free WIFI. But before you log into their WIFI, there’s a critical question you need to ask yourself…
Is free WIFI safe? The short answer is no.
While you sip your cappuccino, security threats could be lurking in the back of the coffee shop’s WIFI. Imagine that each sip you take, a hacker downloads one more piece of sensitive data off your laptop. That’s alarming, right?
Today, I’m going to talk about the risks associated with public WIFI. Then I’ll share some workarounds on how to securely work from a remote location.
What is Public WIFI?
Public WIFI allows you to access the Internet for free. Free public WIFI is available in public places. A couple of examples are airports, restaurants, libraries, and hotel rooms.
Nowadays, public Internet hotspots are almost a given. Most people don’t think twice about connecting to them, but they should…
What are the risks of Public WIFI?
A public WIFI network is less secure than your business’s private one. Connecting with public WIFI could compromise your sensitive data. Don’t believe me? Here is a list of the risks associated with public WIFI:
Man-in-the-Middle Attacks (MitM)
A MitM attack is a form of eavesdropping and it one of the biggest public WiFi threats.
When you connect to the Internet, data moves from your computer to a website. During a MitM attack, an attacker gets between these transmissions and reads them. Once in the middle, the hacker has access to every piece of information you send out. They’ll be able to see things like emails, phone numbers, and credit card information.
Malicious hotspots pose as a legitimate network. As result, its victims unknowingly enter a hacker’s network.
For example, you’re at the coffeehouse and you want to connect to their WIFI. You may think you’re selecting the correct one when you click on “Java Hut WIFI”, but you haven’t. Instead, you’ve connected to a malicious network. Once connected, cybercriminals are able to view all your sensitive information.
Encryption writes your sensitive information into a secret code. Without the decipher code, no one is able to read the encrypted message. Encryption is a superb cybersecurity practice.
But if the wireless network was setup incorrect, there’s a good chance the network is unencrypted.
An unencrypted network is a field day for cybercriminals.
How to Safely Access the Internet in a Public Location
For the times that you cannot access your private WIFI, there are two secure workarounds.
Create a cellular hotspot with your smartphone
Most smartphones have built-in mobile hotspot functions. This function allows you to connect your device to your phone. As a result, you can safely browse the Internet at any time. Here’s how to connect your laptop to your cellular network:
On iPhone Phones:
- Open Settings.
- Click on Personal Hotspot
- Toggle Personal Hotspot on
- To connect using WIFI – Choose iPhone from the WIFI settings on your computer. Then enter in the password.
- To connect using Bluetooth – Pair iPhone with a computer by tapping Paid on iPhone. Then, enter the displayed code on your computer.
- To connect using USB – Plug iPhone into your computer. Choose iPhone from the list of network services on your computer’s settings.
On Android Phones:
- Open Settings.
- Under Wireless & networks, tap More
- Tap Tethering & portable hotspot
- Tap the toggle next to Portable WIFI hotspot
- To connect using WIFI – Enter the network name and password in your computer’s WIFI settings.
One thing to keep in mind: any data used by a connected device will be deducted from the total amount of data you’ve selected in your mobile plan. So, using a cellular hotspot for an extended period of time can be expensive.
Use devices that can access the internet through cellular data
Some laptops and tablets have built-in cellular data. LTE devices can connect to the internet through its 4G LTE network. LTE brands, like Verizon and AT&T, support this feature. With global connectivity, these devices are great to use for frequent travelers.
Off the top of my head, Apple’s iPad Pro with LTE and Microsoft’s Surface Pro with LTE Advanced are good candidates.
Use a WIFI hotspot device
Another alternative is to buy and use a hotspot device. WIFI hotspots are great if you have a lot of devices you want to share web access with. They work fine with a tablet, camera, computer, and pretty much any WIFI-enabled device.
Depending on your hardware, nationwide Internet connectivity can be had at a fairly reasonable price.
The ease of connecting via Free WIFI is not worth the risk of compromising your data. Whether it be personal or business so always think twice before you hop onto Free WIFI.