Starbucks Wifi and Other Public Networks: Be Cautious
I absolutely love Starbucks and I buy their delicious drinks at least once a week. But, I would think twice about using their Wifi and mobile payment program. Even though the coffee conglomerate has transacted over 26 million mobile payments since January 2011, all this financial information could turn into a public relations nightmare if the Wifi network and data servers are not secure.
Sure, it’s Starbucks, and it has the resources to encrypt the WiFi and to beef up security. But, people may not understand how easy it is to be fooled into security. For example, the Starbucks that I regularly visit has WiFi that’s a bit confusing to get into and use. Several network options pop up when you try to jump on the Internet. Because of that, you need to do some trial and error to get online (or ask a barista). Since people expect this process to run smoothly, it would be very easy for a cybercriminal to setup a dummy network, and watch the online activities of the other patrons. Sure, Starbucks could encrypt its network and make it more obvious which network is the true Starbuck free WiFi network. But, another way around this problem is to utilize a virtual private network for your public Internet connections.
Now, don’t think this is only a problem at Starbucks. Simply going to other coffee shops won’t solve the problem or let you run away from it. The problem of a public unsecured WiFi network can be anywhere: coffee shops, airports, fast food restaurants, libraries etc. It’s very difficult to determine if a public network is a secure one, or even knowing if the one you are using is a real network set up by the company or building, or one set up by a cyber criminal to spy on others. The list of security issues can go on and on. By far, the best way to make yourself secure when using these networks is through a VPN.Continued on the next page