Is the nation of coffee lovers fuelling cyber crime?

No, a link hasn’t been found between caffeine intake and criminal tendencies (or if it has, that’s another story)! Rather, we’re exploring how cyber crime is associated with a habit that many of us have – sitting in a favourite café with our laptops alongside our lattés and enjoying the public WiFi.

While some coffee shops welcome this working culture within their establishments, even those happy to receive custom from the laptop brigade have brought in time limits and access vouchers to ensure that customers don’t outstay their welcome. But when it comes to cyber security, there seems to be very little in place in the way of restrictions.

WiFi hotspots – what are the risks?

Whether you’ve stopped for a quick coffee with a friend and are showing them a Facebook update from a mutual acquaintance, or you’ve set up camp for the day to conduct a lengthy work project – if you’re connected to a WiFi network, there are risks involved.

Some establishments set up passwords to prevent outside access, but this doesn’t remove the dangers presented by others with access to the network or the know-how to get around such restrictions. ‘Packet Sniffers’ are software and hardware devices that enable cyber criminals to ‘sniff’ out data crossing the network and piece it all back together. This grants them access to any sensitive information you have sent or received, including emails, documents, usernames and passwords.

There are even cyber criminals setting up ‘Evil Twin’ WiFi hotspots to emulate the SSIDs of legitimate networks, tricking users into connecting to their network so they can eavesdrop on traffic and to steal sensitive information.

Stopping snoopers

So what can be done to reduce the risks of cyber snoopers accessing your information when in your local coffee shop? If you or your colleagues regularly need to access public WiFi networks, Virtual Private Network software provides an effective mechanism for safer internet use. The VPN works by setting up a ‘tunnel’ for the data to pass through, preventing third parties from being able to see the information transferred between your machine and the other end of the connection.

You should also ensure that you access only HTTPS secured websites and avoid HTTP ones that do not have encryption. And if you occasionally browse on your phone over a cup of coffee, just beware there might be someone ‘looking over your shoulder’ who you can’t necessarily see.

Of course, there’s a lot to be said for the benefits of working communally and the respite that a coffee shop can bring from the office – just make sure you take necessary precautions and stay mindful of who might be ‘watching’.

For more information and advice on how to stay cyber-secure in and out of the office, download our 12-step guide.

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