Everybody loves a good cup of coffee or tea at least once a day…the next best thing about being in a café is the free Wi-Fi. You walk into a coffee shop, you’re likely to come across at least one or two people who are sitting at a table with their laptops in front of them, working on the free Wi-Fi while drinking their coffee. Maybe you’re one of them!
Connecting to free Wi-Fi sounds really appealing, but it may not really be as safe as you think!
When I meet people at Cafés (very, very regularly) I always advise them to be safe. Some necessary precautions need to be taken when you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi.
This is because when you’re connected on a public Wi-Fi, you have to understand that there are so many other people connected to that Wi-Fi too! Do you know how easy it becomes for a hacker when they have to hack people over the same Wi-Fi? I participated in a government-certified course on ethical hacking, which I mentioned before, and I realized that it’s not too difficult to hack on a common network! One must be very careful.
Should you use such free Wi-Fi networks in that case?
Yes, you definitely should! If you’re careful, everything will be fine. Here are some steps to keep yourself safe:
1. Windows users, do this!
Well, if you’re a windows user, this is one additional, but helpful (to an extent) step in keeping your laptops safe. When you connect to a new network for the first time, your windows laptop should show you a screen which gives you three options: Home, Work or Public network.
There, you have three options: Home network, Work network, Public network. The reason Windows shows you this screen is to make protecting your laptop easier for you. It will adjust the settings for each network based on what you select. This is an important window that you must not ignore or cancel.
In our discussion, we’re talking about being in a public place, like a coffee shop. In our case, thus, we will choose ‘Public network’, because we’re in a place where there are many unknown people who we don’t trust connecting to the same internet.
When you click on Public network, it adjusts the very basic settings to protect your computer. It does not make your computer 100% secure, so it’s up to you to keep your computer safe.
2. Ensure your firewall is turned on:
Firewall exists on all computers. What is firewall, you ask? Imagine a wall in front of you, that separates you from your enemy. If you throw something at the wall, it won’t go to the other side. The wall will stop it. Similarly, the firewall protects your laptop from unauthorized entities.
Whether you have a Windows or a MacBook, your laptop will have firewall. You should ensure that your firewall is turned on.
3. What should you search for?
This is what will ensure your safety in a public space: what you actually do with the Wi-Fi.
Normal surfing? That’s okay. You can surf, watch videos, do whatever you want. Logging into your bank’s website? That is a BIG no-no. Never do that. Avoid logging into any account for that matter, whether it’s your email account or your YouTube account. The reason for this is, although you may be okay with your YouTube account getting hacked, the hacker will have the capability of finding out your email. If he can find out your email ID, he can hack your email. Better yet, if he gets hold of your password, and it’s the same as your email password (which it will be because as of now your google account works as your YouTube account too), he will get access to your emails.
Getting access to emails is very dangerous anyway. It’s very risky.
Therefore, I advise you, just like I advise people I meet, to prevent logging into your accounts in cybercafés or even in normal cafés. It’s riskier in a cybercafé though, because you get public computers to use, which even others use.
If you by chance forget to log out of your account out of habit or otherwise, others will get access to it. Even if you don’t forget to logout, you leave traces of your activities behind on that computer.
If the next person knows what he’s doing, he can access your information.
Keeping your privacy is essential. Just like I advised you earlier, I’ll advise you again, invest some money in a good encrypted hard drive, which can keep your data safe. If you’re in a cyber café and you insert an encrypted drive in it, use the files without copying them onto the computer and then close it when you’re done, chances are it won’t be easily traceable, and your private information will not be at risk. If you go for a washroom break in a café, you can simply disconnect your drive and go, so even if someone connects it, they have to decrypt the drive with a password. Even if they steal the drive, if accessing your private information is really that important to them, it will be difficult to decrypt an encrypted hard drive properly (if it’s a good encryption).
Now, out of the hard drives DataLocker produces, and my company supplies in India, many of them have an auto-lock feature, which means they lock automatically if there is no activity for a certain period of time (adjustable to your liking). The hard drives are designed to endure rugged use, and are physically made very tough. They offer world-class encryption.
Taking our case at a café, here are the advantages of using a DataLocker drive:
- If someone tries to access it in your absence, they can’t, because of the auto- lock feature as well as because of the level of encryption.
- If someone steals your drive, they can’t break into it physically as well as electronically, because of its tough build and its world-class encryption.
- In the off-chance that someone does actually steal your drive, the SafeConsole software will show you the location where your device was last connected. From the SafeConsole software, you can remotely wipe out all the data that was in the drive which is now stolen.
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