LONDON, UK — We’re all increasingly working on the move, and internet connectivity is key to working in, or running a successful business. But is our personal data and information safe as we log into these unsecured public networks?
The temptation of working out of cafes and coffee shops, albeit often in crowded and noisy environments, is a great pull for many, and using the free WiFi saves on phone data and allows business to be done whilst on the move.
But it’s that very convenience of a free public WiFi connection in coffee shops cafes and restaurants that can often risk personal information getting into the wrong hands.
An Ipass report from 2018 concluded that ‘62% of Wi-Fi related security incidents occured in cafés and coffee shops’.
The report also stated: ‘Overall, 81% of respondents said they had seen Wi-Fi related security incidents in the last 12 months, with cafés, airports and hotels being cited as the most vulnerable locations.’
Perhaps the reason why there is a higher risk is simply that the WiFi connections in coffee shops can be of varying quality in terms of security, with many offering unsecured open networks requiring little in the way of login credentials or registration.
These venues are therefore a big temptation for hackers who have not been slow to recognise the rich pickings available, due to these security weaknesses and the large turnover of people to easily target.
The internet security giant Norton recently stated that regardless of the connection type, public Wi-Fi should always be used with caution and that antivirus protection can’t help protect information against public Wi-Fi threats.
It offered a number of tips to keeping private information safe, including being selective about which sites are visited and avoiding those with a log in, avoiding making online purchases and not accessing personal bank accounts or sensitive personal data, whilst on unsecured public networks.
It may all seem like common sense, but even so, it’s becoming more of a problem with hackers and criminals becoming ever more sophisticated to steal personal information.
So if your coffee shop or café is risking it when it comes to using their free WiFi to carry out your business, what’s the viable alternative?
The growth of professional business coworking venues, that offer secured WiFi with a much higher degree of security has become popular as people look for a safer way to access the internet and do business in a quieter and more professional setting.
Although no network can be fully guaranteed against all threats, generally these coworking locations are more geared towards higher-end business communications and have robustly protected networks in-keeping with the demands of their more business clientele.
One of the big differences is probably that for coffee shops and cafes, their business model is about the coffee and the food, with WiFi thrown in as a bonus, so it’s obvious that their main investment is usually NOT in the business services such as providing highly secure, business grade WiFi.
Professional coworking locations, on the other hand, live or die by the quality and reliability of their online networks and WiFi security, so they generally put a much higher budget towards their hardware and security protection which in virtually all cases is secured, requiring a registration and encrypted log-in password.
Chelliah Nakeeran, founder of the Bludesks coworking platform, offering a searchable database of globally based professional coworking locations states ‘we are constantly listening to our members and for many, there is a growing concern about the sometimes lax WiFi security in coffee shops, as well as the huge variations in data connection speed and unreliability of the WiFi.
Our workspace service partners offer a more professional space where the WiFi networks are generally much faster, more secure and the overall experience in the workspace allows business to be done easily in quiet, safer environments, with all the necessary business services on hand.’
Whilst there is always going to be a demand for coffee and convenience in coffee shops and food outlets, it may be time to consider the many benefits and additional security of professional coworking locations and keep the would-be hackers at bay.