Public surfing

11.07.2016 |

Episode #6 of the course Cyber security for small business by Cat Paterson


We are in an age of being able to work from literally anywhere in the world. Having a laptop, smartphone, and WiFi connection means we are connected all across the globe.

Coffee shops are crammed with loads of laptop gazers sipping on lattes or having loud conversations on their phones without a thought or worry about what sensitive information they are potentially sharing publicly.

It’s liberating for the small business owner who no longer has to endure a hard-wired internet connection to get their work done. They can pack up their wireless kit and work—on trains, in airports, in coffee shops, or wherever they can get a half decent WiFi connection.

The world is their oyster (or connected cafe, however you want to see it).

The problem is that there are some not-so-nice people in this world who are quite willing to use these public WiFi spaces to exploit and steal private information for nefarious ends.

Every smartphone, tablet, or laptop user in a public space is subjecting their personal information to considerable risk because their data can be intercepted through public WiFi networks.

We are getting better at knowing that we need anti-virus software and firewalls on our computers, but do we even think about the risks of checking in on Facebook or checking our email? Probably not.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to give up the convenience of accessing public WiFi in shopping malls, airports, or cafes just because there are some unscrupulous people in the world lying in wait to steal my personal data. So what can you do to protect your digital world in a public space?


Protect yourself and your business:

1. Public WiFi is insecure
As soon as you log onto public WiFi, you are exposing yourself to a potential threat. Ensure that you connect to the correct connection. Many attackers set up bogus connections that look like the cafe or mall to get you to click.

2. All devices are at risk
Your phone and tablet are still powerful computers that hold a lot of data when connected to the internet. Treat them no differently than your computer—the risks are the same. Install and keep updated anti-virus software on your phone to scan and clean potential threats.

3. Don’t connect to sensitive sites in public spaces
If you are browsing in public spaces, don’t connect to online banking or sites that have stored your credit card details. These are at higher risk of exposure and attack.

4. Ensure your own network settings are set for a public network
While your computer may be virus-free, by connecting to a public network, you could be infected or compromised by other infected devices that are connected to the public network.

You can also install a virtual private network (VPN), which will be explained in the next lesson.


Recommended book

“Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World” by Bruce Schneier


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