Public Wi-Fi At Your Local Coffee Shop – Friend or Foe?

Getting a cup of joe of at the coffee shop is just what you need this early in the morning. You have more time than you thought to get to work and decide to stay awhile. You fire up the ol’ laptop and connect to the complimentary Wi-Fi being provided to you, the customer. Life is good as you have a hot drink in your hand and a fast connection to browse the wonders of the web.

Reality is not as peachy

The occurrences in and out of the news, such as this example from the BBC, of malicious actions being performed on freely provided Wi-Fi are virtually limitless. The problem is that a countless number of employees, neighbors, family members, and maybe even yourself do not know the potential evils that can occur by simply using free Wi-Fi or even password protected Wi-Fi outside of the home or organization.

Controlling, redirecting or outright manipulating your web traffic, easily viewing anything un-encrypted send over the network such as passwords, even making the web pages you view appear upside down. These are just some of the nefarious actions that can happen to you should you use public Wi-Fi networks. However, not everything is doom and gloom because…

You Have Options

VPN: This is an acronym for Virtual Private Network and this is one of the best methods to help protect yourself should you need to use Wi-Fi out in public. A VPN will protect and envelop all of your internet traffic to prevent anyone from seeing or manipulating what you are doing online by using encryption. Using a VPN is easy and there are a plethora of good VPN providers out there if you want to purchase one for personal use. Else if one is provided by your employer, use it! Make sure any application using the internet is closed down first, connect to Wi-Fi, immediately start the VPN and make sure its connected, then you are good to go!

Tethering or using a hot spot: If you don’t have a VPN available to use you can tether your phones internet connection by creating a Wi-Fi hot spot (if your phone’s plan offers that ability). However, ensure that the hot spot you create has a secure password itself. Else there are dedicated cellular data devices you can purchase that create wi-fi hot spots when on the road. Alternatively you can simply use your phones cellular internet connection and do not use Wi-Fi at all.

Remember in the end you are the best defense in protecting your data. You should never trust public Wi-Fi even if it is password protected and always assume that there is a malicious individual that could be seeing or manipulating your traffic. Play it safe and use a VPN, your phone, or just stay off the Wi-Fi network altogether.

Cyber security awareness training helps immensely to build the knowledge of Wi-Fi related threats and is offered by InteProIQ.

David Confeld

VP of Tech Ops @ InteProIQ