Wireless Internet cafes are the ultimate convenience. You can enjoy your favorite beverage, chat with friends and hop online to handle e-mails and work projects or to surf the web. Many people also use the wireless Internet connection at cyber cafes to shop or bank online, but hackers and identity thieves can tap into these unsecured Internet connections fairly easily and steal your personal information. I make sure to avoid shopping and banking when I’m not using my own secure wireless connection or Internet connection at home, because this lowers the risk of online theft.
Use these tips to ensure your personal information stays confidential when you jump on the web:
Relatively Safe Activities at Wireless Internet Cafes
If you have access to a virtual private network (VPN), you will be able to get online and perform a variety of activities without worrying about compromising your safety. These networks are completely encrypted so hackers won’t be able to intercept the data going back and forth over the network.
If you are using a public terminal at the café or connecting to a Wi-Fi network with your laptop, there are some activities that you can perform without compromising your safety and security. These include:
– Browsing sites that do not require a username and password to access them
– Performing searches on the major search engines
– Watching YouTube videos, without logging into your personal account
– Logging in only when the site is encrypted. Look for the “s” at the end of the “http:” in the URL and a padlock symbol in your browser to determine if the site really is encrypted. Still, encryption may not be enough to prevent some hackers from monitoring what you’re doing, so it this activity is still risky.
Activities that Can Compromise Safety and Security
Even reputable Wi-Fi hotspots can be targets for hackers and scammers, so you’ll need to make sure you’re not visiting websites that require you to login with your personal banking or credit card information. Activities that can compromise the safety and security of your personal information include:
– Shopping at your favorite department store or online retailer
– Bidding and buying items on auction sites by logging into your account
– Logging into your PayPal account
– Transferring funds and performing other online banking activities
– Checking credit card statements and logging in to your credit card accounts
– Checking your e-mail
– File sharing
Keep in mind that many places with public terminals – the Internet-ready spots that do not require any special login access – could be targets for phishing scams. Some public terminals have keystroke loggers where everything you type is recorded into a database. This means all of your passwords, usernames and any other confidential information you provide to enter a site is being monitored and can be used by someone else.
Being able to access the web at wireless Internet café can be convenient for browsing and searching for information, but you need to avoid any activities that require you to log in. Even the seemingly safe Wi-Fi hotspots can be monitored by hackers and scammers, so take the steps to protect your identity and login information whenever possible.
Kim Boatman, “The Travelor’s Guide to Wireless Internet Safety,” Earthlink Security Center.
“How Do I Stay Safe in an Internet Cafe?” Ask Leo.