Should You Use Public WiFi at Coffee Shops?


If you’re weary of working every day from home in the age of physical distancing, you may consider a visit to the coffee shop with your laptop to use the public WiFi instead. However, without the right precautions, this can be risky for your security and privacy. Here are a few threats you should watch out for:

Physical Threats

According to data from technology research firm Gartner, a laptop is stolen every 53 seconds. Meanwhile, law enforcement data suggests that laptops are most vulnerable in public spaces such as cafés, bars, and public transport. With more people crowding coffee shops nowadays, laptops are even more susceptible to thievery.

Be cautious when you visit a public space with a laptop. Always keep your eye on your computer, especially when placing orders. Don’t leave your machine unattended on the table for any reason, or you’ll tempt fate.   

Digital Threats

A cybersecurity report claims that coffee shops are the most dangerous public WiFi venue of all. They have little security and are easier to spoof because they’re popular, and customers are encouraged to use them.  

  • Man-in-the-Middle Cyberattack: This is a widespread cyberattack at coffee shops where the attacker intercepts the written communications between two parties and makes them believe that they’re still communicating with each other, when they’re actually talking to the attacker. The attacker expertly modifies the communication to suit the attacker’s needs. For example, the attacker can deceive you into handing over your credit card information to help a friend in an emergency.
  • Fake WiFi Hotspot: A cybercriminal creates a WiFi network with the same name and settings as a legitimate network at a café to entice old and new users to connect unwittingly to the fraudulent network. Next, the cybercriminal monitors your data, including your login credentials and financial information, in order to clean out your bank account or commit identity theft. Alternatively, the attacker will inject malicious software into your system designed to steal your data or hold your device hostage for a ransom.
  • Network Enumerator: A network enumerator or network scanner is a tool used by cybercriminals to access your system information on a network. A cybercriminal can use this information to hack into your system and steal confidential information.
  • Network Protocol Attack: WiFi networks at coffee shops are vulnerable to protocol attacks because they often use outdated technology to shield their networks.

How Can I Use Public WiFi at Coffee Shops Safely? 

Use a firewall to shield your network traffic and close your unneeded ports when accessing public WiFi. More importantly, subscribe to a well-reviewed Virtual Private Network (VPN) service that uses the best VPN protocol to secure your public WiFi connection. Remember to avoid free VPNs because they’re unsecured, log your data, and carry malware. To get a feel for a technologically advanced VPN service, sign up for a VPN trial from a reputable cybersecurity company.

Alongside a VPN, use advanced antivirus software for an extra layer of security. In addition, update your operating system regularly to close security holes and set complex passwords to keep thieves out of your accounts. With good cybersecurity software and some common sense, you can shield yourself from cyberattacks at coffee shops.