Most of us have used public WiFi in a coffee shop, hotel, or airport. I still haven’t met anyone who is mobile or travels for work that can say they haven’t. Running or working in a business typically means you’re not in your own four walls and you have to use someone else’s, especially public, wireless networks.
There are a few precautions you should take when using public WiFi, if you have to. Just a single visit to a public place with open WiFi can put your information at risk. Just because it’s “Free” doesn’t mean that its safe. With malicious software and hackers just waiting to infect or break into your laptop, working remotely can be like eating a steak in an open safari while the lions are walking around.
Here are four tips to help you more work more securely when you’re out and about connecting to public WiFi
Tip 1- Avoid Crowded Coffee Shops
Whether you have an office that you work in or not, people no longer want to be stuck at a desk. If you’re looking to finding a space that offers fast WiFi, space to work, and power outlets, there are a number of applications and websites you can use that rate businesses on these things.
Use Google’s Popular Times Feature – Type in the name of the coffee shop you want to visit, and a long with their contact information, you’ll see a section that tells you when they are the most/least busy.
Google has also updated this widget to add a real-time look at how a crowded a coffee shop is. Its a great tool if you don’t want to be rubbing shoulders with the person next to you.
Tip 2- Online Resources to Find New Places
If your local shop is too crowded, you may want to find someplace else. However, you’ll need the amenities like power, WiFi and space. There are a few apps and websites you can use.
WorkFrom claims their community hosts the world’s largest database of crowdsourced local workspaces. They also have a mobile app for your smartphone.
This is an iPhone/iPad application that you can download from the Apple App Store. It uses your iPhone to give you nearby spots that are work-friendly. There are filters you can apply including ratings on their WiFi speeds, number of power outlets, space, bathrooms, parking, and more.
Tip 3 – Stay Secure
Bad Hackers take advantage of our need for connectivity by setting up fake WiFi networks that have real sounding names such as “Free Public WiFi” or even the name of the place that you’re visiting. These rogue hotspots lure you in to connect, and now the malicious actor can watch all of your traffic before they pass it on. There are easy to use devices that are readily available for any random person to do this, without a lot of technical ability.
Remember, even real legit WiFi systems can be compromised. Our computers connect to the best signal, so if someone is broadcasting using a coffee shops WiFi name, but they are closer to you, there is a good chance you’re going to connect there.
Just browsing secure websites (visible lock or word secure) is better but its still not safe. We recommend using a virtual private network or VPN application to scramble your traffic. Don’t use any VPN software. If your business has one, that’s a good one to use, if not we recommend a proXPN as well (disclosure: we are an affiliate because we believe in the product).
ProXPN VPN lets you surf the web securely viapublicWi-Fi or when you’re at work or home. They offer a lifetime premium subscription that provides unlimited bandwidth via their ultra-private global server network. You can surf with complete anonymity. proXPN will even unblock geo-locked content so you can browse freely from anywhere in the world with an Internet Wi-Fi connection. And they say it never logs your online movements so others can’t track or steal your confidential data. proXPN VPN got a 4-Star Rating from PC Magazine.
Another product we recommend is Todyl. (disclosure: we are a Todyl partner). Todyl not only will cloak your public WiFi connections but it will add additional layers of protection for your computer and your browsing. The system is actively monitored by security experts to identify patterns and take action should there be an issue or block an attack.
Tip 4 – Stay Private
Its hard to keep private when you’re working in a public place. Everything you do is within the line of sight of nearby strangers. This is called “shoulder surfing.” Always pay attention to the people who are sitting around you.
One way to protect yourself is by using a laptop privacy filter. You simply slide it over your screen and it limits the viewing angle to only straight on. You can also dim your screen’s brightness to increase the filter’s effectiveness by narrowing the viewing angle.