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Is That Coffee Shop Wifi Safe?

Is that coffee shop wifi safe? Maybe not.As a self-employed person without a true office, I’ve held and attended many a meeting in a coffee shop. Here in the Philly area you can’t go ten feet without hitting a public or independent coffee shop, so it’s easy enough to do.

This means I’ve probably logged into the free wifi in 100 different locations in my town and that doesn’t even count all the hotels and public spaces I’ve used while traveling.

I’ve always assumed that the wifi signal at most public places was safe, but a recent article in Pando Daily from white hat hacker Nicholas Percoco explained that it’s not really the wifi that isn’t safe it’s the people sitting near you that aren’t (hat tip to Christine for pointing out this article).

The next time you’re in a coffee shop sipping a Chai latte, availing yourself of the free Wi-Fi, remember this: The private messages you are sending, the websites you are visiting, and bank accounts you are accessing could be intercepted by a nefarious individual sitting two tables away. It doesn’t need to stop with snooping either; they could inject code into your Web browser to steal your passwords or install software to give them access to your laptop whenever they want.

Yikes.

Confession: I’ve always thought two things protected me from hackers. First, I primarily use a Mac, and while that does offer me a degree of protection, I still need to be careful according to this article in MacWorld. Secondly, as someone who doesn’t have credit cards (yeah, bankruptcy!), I’ve always assumed a hacker would find me uninteresting and move on, and that’s just plain stupid I make purchases online using debit cards all the time, and there’s usually money in them there accounts.

Mr. Percoco offer some pretty standard advice about how to protect yourself such as being sure to upgrade your software consistently but I found his suggestion of a pass PHRASE and not a password quite interesting, and I plan to start doing that immediately. His last bit of advice don’t click on stuff seems like it should be a no brainer, but in these times of constant social shares it can be easily to click on a dangerous link.

What do you think? Do you protect yourself when using public wife?

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