I’m in Dallas, TX for a little R&R while my fiance attends a convention for her job. Right now I’m at the Crooked Tree Coffee Shop connected to their public wifi and I figured what better time to discuss some safe browsing habits?
Whether you understand technology or not is irrelevant, there are a few things that you can understand better and that’s where I come in.
Everyone has wifi at their restaurant these days, but what does that mean for your privacy?
The moment you connect, your privacy could be compromised. Your name, your social media accounts, passwords, your card numbers, it can all be stolen if you don’t pay attention. That’s why I never go anywhere without a solid connection to my VPN (Virtual Private Network.)
In the above model, our hacker, cleverly named Wi-Spy, can see that My Macbook is visiting Amazon.com. That means what I shop for and any information I send to Amazon could be compromised by someone who doesn’t even have physical access to my computer. Because they have access to the coffee shop’s network. Bigger named companies usually have better protection in place, but even they slip off their secure channels from time to time. If you look up in your browser you’ll know real quick whether or not your connection is secure:
The little green lock and the https:// designation confirms that any information you send to that device is secure. However, let’s go look for a pair of shoes on Amazon and see how it looks..
Notice the little green lock is gone and we’ve lost the https:// designation. This is not secure. That means on open wifi, our Wi-Spy can see his neighbor shopping for shoes. No big deal right? Who doesn’t wear shoes? But can you name a few other things you might not want your neighbor knowing you purchase? Or websites you might not want them knowing you’re visiting? I know I surely can! Enter your savior, the VPN!
A VPN connection encrypts the information coming to and from your machine via a secure network. So while everyone else in this coffee shop may have their valuable information floating around for anyone with the know how to steal, I’m safe. Because as far as any hacker could tell, I’m just talking to a server in the Europe.
VPNs are not without their downsides, for example, your browsing speed can suffer a bit. Your favorite sites may not load as fast. But as far as this Doc is concerned, that’s a small price to pay for keeping your information safe.
Is it 100%?
Every time you use your devices is like rolling the dice. Someone smart enough to figure it out can surely get your information. It’s your job (and mine) to make sure that we make that process as difficult as possible.