5 Ways to Work at a Coffee Shop and Not Get Hacked – VPNs and Mobile Hotspots Can Help Protect Your Privacy and Data
Working anywhere on public WiFi puts your personal messages, private workplace information, and if shopping online, your money at risk. But this a cybersecurity risk that is avoidable. Don’t use public WiFi. However, that’s not acceptable to many, so they need a WiFi hack.
Anyone using a shared public WiFi connection like that found at coffee shops, hotels, and airports presents an easy opportunity for a hacker to intercept internet their communications and data. Even if the public WiFi connection has a password, anyone using the same network can intercept web traffic with some cheap tools readily bought on the internet. You don’t have to be a black hat hacker, just someone who spent 50 bucks and a few hours in a coffee shop monitoring the network.
More websites are converting to HTTPS sites which shows visitors that website is secure. The thing is, until your information – name, address, payment information – reaches the website or app, it can be intercepted by anyone using the same internet connection while it’s “in the air.”.
Virtual private networks (VPNs) are a good way to encrypt your traffic. A VPN and encrypts the data sent from your laptop or phone and protects it from anyone trying to intercept your information.
There are free VPN apps as well as paid services. Obviously, users can expect more features and options from a paid service.
We tried several VPN services, both free and paid, and found that the differentiator between apps includes features like number of servers available, location of servers, data limits, and monthly cost. It’s no surprise that free VPN apps have low data limits and fewer servers (if any) to choose from. Another differentiator is how many devices can connect under one account. When selecting a VPN, it’s important to be sure that it supports your laptop, desktop, mobile device and operating system – Linux, Windows, Android, and iOS.
Of course, speed is king. When using a VPN your web surfing, email, and any other communications are probably going to slow down especially if you choose a server that’s physically far away from you. That’s because it’s being rerouted through one or more servers that may or may not be nearby. The father away you are from your chosen VPN server the slower your speed will be. Speed loss is a major reason why people avoid VPNs and take cyber security risks.
Unless you’re using an enterprise, VPN configured by your workplace, VPN services typically let user choose a country to connect through and the type of service. When you route your internet traffic through another country, there is most likely going to be reduction of speed. The further away the selected server is, the more your speed will be reduced. For example, if you are in France and choose to use a server that’s in Canada then you can expect slower internet traffic then if you chose a server in Germany.
We tried TunnelBear which is a free VPN available for smartphones. It has excellent service and speeds. We’ve used it in several airports, hotels, and coffee shops on an Android phone. TunnelBear has a monthly data limit, but for the casual user on social media, checking email, or occasional online shopping, it works very well. Pro tip, you can tweet to TunnelBear to get extra data. Users cannot choose their server.
IPVanish is a paid service that I used for traveling in the APAC region. Most of my time was spent in Taiwan on hotel WiFi where IPVanish worked well. It also worked well in APAC countries well known for blocking access and restricting content. Everyone I worked with needed to be sure they could maintain communications with their office, have unrestricted website access, and use all social media. I wanted to make sure that at all stops along my trip I’d have uninterrupted internet access free from censorship. IPVanish worked very well. It’s easy to install and configure. Open the desktop app, click one button, select a server, and you’re ready to go.
Recently I tried NordVPN which is a paid VPN service. It was a little more difficult to install than IPVanish but once I got the hang out it, it worked well. Desktop installation was easy but getting it to run wasn’t obvious for both people who tried it.
However, the Android mobile app was quick and easy to install and run. One thing to know is that if you want to get around in the Google Play Store ads, you’ll have to download the .apk package available from the NordVPN website.
Web Browser Add On
If you don’t want to install a VPN, then you might want to try using browser extension. NordVPN has browser extensions for Chrome and Firefox. You’ll need a paid subscription to use them.
Use Your Phone as a Hotspot
If your mobile provider allows it, use your smartphone and data plan as mobile hotspot. Not all wireless providers allow it, and some have low hotspot data limits so be careful that you don’t cause yourself overage charges and have your monthly usage throttled. Read bout how to connect in this post.
Private Web Browsing
Using a private browser like Firefox or Chrome’s incognito mode protects you from cookie tracking but your data is not encrypted. Like VPNs, private web browsing blocks annoying advertisements, cookie tracking, and some malicious websites, but they do not protect you from hackers trying to intercept your internet usage.
Tor web browser can be used to hide your identity online and leaves no trace you visited a website. It can also be used to surf the dark web. When used with free Tor VPN, your data is encrypted.
Michelle writes about cyber security, data privacy focusing on social media privacy as well as how to protect your IoT devices. She has worked in internet technology for over 20 years and owns METRONY, LLC. Michelle earned a B.S. in Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Michelle published a guide to Cyber Security for Business Travelers