We see them all the time. Maybe you are one of them. The people who bring their laptops to the nearest wifi-equipped coffeehouse, sip a cup of joe and spend hours working at their favorite table. They send and receive emails, transfer files, FTP web pages to servers, watch videos, connect with their school computer systems, play games and more.
It’s easy and convenient to set up shop at the neighborhood java hut, cafe or fast food establishment. Before you connect, though, it’s wise to do everything possible to maintain a secure personal digital experience, one that protects your computer’s personal files and data.
Below are five tips to help you maintain a strong level of security while enjoying your favorite beverage at the coffeehouse.
- Make sure the network you’re connecting to is secure.
The last thing you want is for that guy across the room to be able to hack into your account. For that matter, depending on how strong a wifi location is, someone from next door or even in the vicinity might be able to use that connection as well. While many if not most gathering places do install password protection, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Cyber crimes occur when someone finds a way to gain illegal access to someone else’s account, and you don’t want that to happen.
- Don’t do online credit card transactions in a public place.
No matter how secure the establishment’s Internet connection is, it’s just bad practice to use your credit card information using someone else’s wifi account. This includes making purchases and performing online banking activities. Your bank and credit card information are meant to be confidential, and unfortunately, hackers are both smart and devious. This, by the way, also applies to transferring any type of sensitive or confidential information.
- Add password-protection to your device.
There are some people who are so concerned about theft that they actually take their laptop or tablet into the bathroom with them when they need a break. If you’re not of the mind to do that, you might at least want to install password protection on your computer so no one can push a button and see what’s on it while you’re momentarily away from it. It can be a hassle to keep entering a code, but it’s worth the extra effort. By the same token, don’t leave USB drives unattended when you walk away, or they might walk away with a fellow patron, even by accident.
- Put a privacy filter on your screen.
You’re working on something that’s highly confidential, and you’re doing it discreetly, but there are people at surrounding tables who might be able to catch a glimpse of what you’re doing. They probably don’t care, but people are curious. This is when you’ll want to consider adding a privacy filter, a thin black filter that fits over your screen so it can only be viewed by someone directly in front of the screen, aka you.
- Get a VPN for your laptop.
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a technology that increases your personal online security by hiding your Internet protocol (IP) address and encrypting everything you send or receive, thus enabling you to access the web privately. Essentially, it builds a virtual passage between your device and the wifi server, so no one can view your data or even your activity. This is a must-have for anyone who spends time online in a public place.
As with everything else, hackers are crafty types and they’re always looking for ways to access data that’s off-limits to them. By taking the proper steps to secure your devices, you can make things difficult for them while having personal peace of mind.