The last time I got a cup of coffee at Starbucks and looked around, I saw a laptop on almost every single table, and customers who were either students or business people working, and I assume at least few of them connected to the web via the local Wi-Fi network that Starbucks provided.
If you wonder if this is a safe practice – the answer is simply no. The same goes for using a public Wi-Fi at the airport, hotel, or any other public network.
The concerns with using public Wi-Fi are security related. When you choose to connect into a public Wi-Fi network, you agree to be part of a larger network of computers and send/receive data over that shared network. Public Wi-Fi networks turn out to be a goldmine for hackers, who can simply enjoy their cup of coffee while running sniffing programs on their laptop and collect all data from all the computers that are in use near them. This is a great security risk not only to your own computer, or your bank accounts, but even to your corporate office. For example, if you are checking your corporate mail while sitting at a coffee shop connected to public Wi-Fi, you are taking the risk that your username and password were sniffed, and are in the hands of a hacker who is sitting on the other side of the room.
We strongly recommend against using any public Wi-Fi. Always use your cellular data plan from your phone to get a connection to the Internet. This type of connection is very difficult to break, and is private to you.
Another interesting scenario that we have seen is that a hacker will create their own “public Wi-Fi”, when it is really created on their own system. To the innocent traveler at the airport who sees on his laptop “LAX” and it shows as a free and unlocked network, he may feel very lucky to find a working Internet connection that he believes is offered by the airport. No such thing. He is falling into a trap setup by a hacker, who is collecting any valuable data he can as soon as the connection is made.
If you have questions or concerns about what you can and what you can’t do when it comes to traveling and connecting back to the office, or just using public Wi-Fi networks, please contact us and we can address the issue. Experienced and reliable, Accurate Data Networks is your technology partner for the future.
Gene Desrochers says
Very good and important information to know about public wifi. I just learned this recently by gossip and now it is confirmed here. Thanks!