Sips & Tips... About that Coffee Shop WiFi

Nitro cold brew coffee (what's that?) with even more caffeine...what will they think of next? It's quite good. If you haven't already, you have to get out there and try it!

Our love of the coffee bean has us frequenting coffee shops more and more regularly (for a growing number of us, too regularly!). And it’s amazing to see how many people have now made the coffee shop their office. Cheap rent if you keep your Frappuccino’s in check!

Unfortunately, connecting to public WiFi (e.g. at coffee shops, hotels, etc.) can put you at serious risk.

Let's put this in perspective. When you order your coffee, they give you a separate cup. Why? Because you don't want to share the same cup, at the same time, with everyone else in the shop. That would be downright unsanitary!

It's time to start thinking about public WiFi connections in the same way. Truth is, you just don't know where everyone else's devices have been. Or exactly who is on the network. It's downright unsanitary.

Additionally, hackers are everywhere and a public WiFi connections are a goldmine for them.

By simply being attached to the same network, a bad actor (i.e. hacker) can monitor activity and information transmitted (e.g. passwords, emails and website activity). Sometimes they connect directly to the shared public network. Other times, they go a step further and create a false network that mimics the public network. They simply set up their own router that has the same WiFi network name as the establishment's network.

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With the distance that WiFi can travel today, an attacker doesn’t even need to be in the building. They could be in a car, just steps outside.

They call this an “evil twin” and it's pretty simple to do (i.e. kind of like running out to Best Buy and setting your home wireless router). Unsuspecting users, connect to it assuming that it is the coffee shop or hotel, but it's actually the hacker's connection. Internet access continues to work as expected, but you're now riding the hacker's network where they can monitor your activity and direct you to specific web pages (often containing bad links and/or malware).

There are other risks as well. Convenience is one of them.

Some companies provide employees with VPN’s to connect securely as the VPN encrypts communication, even on public WiFi. Unfortunately, many find it to be cumbersome. Frustrated with the extra steps and slower connection speeds, many skip the VPN, opting for the simple and speedy public WiFi connection. A lot of us have been there. It's so much easier, but unfortunately nowhere near as safe. 

The good news is, most mobile phones today have a personal hotspot built in. Why not use it!

As long as you have a long and secure password enabled on that hotspot, using it as an internet connection for your computer is a great option. It’s your own personal internet connection for you to use freely without sharing with others.

So next time you go to that coffee shop, just like you wouldn't share a Cup of Joe with a group of strangers, don’t share the public WiFi either!

Stay Safe,
Your Friends at Launch Security

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