I admit it, I use the free WIFI available at Starbucks and other coffee shops.
You probably do too – just how safe is it?
It was safer prior to October 2010, when a little piece of software called Firesheep became available. Firesheep allows someone to effectively look over your shoulder and see what you are doing on the Internet, and then use that connection themselves. It has currently been downloaded over 1 million times.
Here’s some advice: Don’t do anything confidential at a public WIFI hotspot.
This would include such things as banking, logging into your webmail account, government website logins, or any new sign-ups that ask for personal information. You might also add Facebook, LinkedIn and other websites where you store personal and/or company information – especially if you happen to use the same username/password combination for all these websites, as many do.
I’m highlighting Starbucks here, since it is probably the most common, but any public WIFI spot counts; McDonalds, Public Library, even your home WIFI if it is unprotected and you live in an apartment. (I can see about 35 WIFI connections from my home and still some that are unprotected)
What CAN you do on the Starbucks WIFI?
How much risk you take is up to you however you should be safe browsing news, and general web surfing. Have a cup of joe and catch the latest news or sports scores.
Here’s the best solution if you need to do something confidential at a public location. If you have one, connect to your corporate VPN and do all your activity through that. Hackers can’t get through VPN traffic.
Can you tell if you’re being snooped?
Unfortunately no, unless you have some specialized software and some tech savvy.
Stopping in for coffee or tea at your local spot and firing up you browser is so convenient that we’re not going to stop doing it. Always remember though that you’re in a public spot – and act accordingly.
Have you ever had suspicion of being snooped upon?