How Working at Your Favorite Coffee Shop Can Get You Hacked
Coffee shops are a good place to socialize while getting work done, especially for those who work primarily from home or who are on the road often. But did you know that like other public places, a coffee shop is an easy place to get hacked?
Travelers, digital nomads, and all public WiFi users are at risk for having their personal information hacked while using any shared data connection. Although many are careful not to log into highly sensitive accounts like a credit card or back account, they are not aware that posting on social media accounts can lead indirectly to a hack too.
Hackers can intercept, or sniff, your internet transmission while in mid-air across a WiFi connection. That means your login information, the contents of an email, or anything else going across your laptop or smartphone can be sniffed by a hacker who is nearby. This can happen while the data is moving from your device to the coffee shop WiFi router. It can also happen while your data is moving from the router back to your device. This danger, of course, applies to all public spaces like airports, hotels and retail stores.
When working away from home, many share their whereabouts on social media in the form of photos and posts tagged with location data. Every time a user logs into a social media channel form the device while on public WiFi, hackers have the chance to sniff (or intercept) usernames and passwords. Social media accounts tend to be loaded with information about the user like hometown, pets’ names, high school attended, and family members names. These are all common answers to password reset questions! If your social media account is tied to the same email as any of your banking apps, then you have the perfect setup for a social engineering attack.
What Can I Do to Avoid Being Hacked?
The simplest things to do is to not use shared, unsecure WiFi connections. IF you don’t need a password to login, then the connection is unsecure! If you do need a password, but everyone in the store or hotel has it, then it is still unsecure!
When you off your home or office WiFi (assuming those are secure) then use your smartphone’s data plan to log into online. Surfing websites should be safe, but do not log into any social media accounts, financial accounts, or anything else that uses a password. This includes posting to Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook or other social media apps.
If you travel often and need to use Public WiFi, but need to save money on your data plan by limiting usage, then consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN.) A VPN is a way to tunnel to a secure connection. That way a nearby hacker quietly sitting near enough to intercept your internet traffic cannot hack your personal data.
Michelle writes about cyber security as well as how to protect your data online. She has worked in internet technology for over 20 years Michelle earned a B.S. in Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. She published a guide to Cyber Security for Business Travelers