Is it Safe to Surf in a Starbucks or Panera or any Public WiFi?

[ 0 ] August 4, 2010 |

Tips for Safe Public Internet Surfing–What you MUST Know!

surfing at Starbucks

Now that Starbucks, is offering free Wifi at all 6800 of its locations and Panera, another popular free Wifi hangout, are popping up all over the land–you might ask yourself, is it safe for me to surf in Public?  Can I blog there?  How about check my financial records?  my email?

With the increase in free, readily available Wifi,  more people will use social networking sites and email accounts while having a latte– whether it’s through public WiFi using their own laptop or using a third-party computer at an Internet café. As coffee lovers get ready to settle into their morning brew, security software company PC Tools (www.pctools.com) provides easy to follow and helpful tips for a painfree public computing experience.

10 PC Public Internet Tips

1.       Be careful what you post — Thieves could follow your plans through your social networks and keystrokes and could break into your home while you are away. So be sure to set your privacy settings on high.  How many times have you seen Facebook posts like:  “Off to get a Coffee at Panera–be back at 3:00!”  on your friend’s wall.  Hey why don’t they just add,  “I am not at home right now.  Feel free to come in and steal my stuff.”

2.       Know your networks — Choose the safest and most appropriate wireless network while you’re checking email, Facebook and other online activities.  According to PC tools Stephanie Edwards, VP of Sales and Marketing, “Choose the safest network that is available when in a public location.  Choose the “Starbucks” wifi connection over the generic “Att” connection if choices are offered.  Surfing with https URLS is preferred to http.”

3.       Be smart when using public computers – Most travelers know they can check emails and say hello to love ones by using public computers at a local hotel or café. But many don’t know to check for antivirus software on these public  computers. Even visiting a secure website (https: ) can result in simple keylogger theft of your password, so avoid logging into personal accounts (such as Facebook) and instead limit your use to online research.  My personal opinion is NEVER NEVER use a public computer for anything other than the most basic info!  NEVER ever login to anything from a public computer.  Do you understand what a keylogger is?  It records your every keystroke (not bad to have to check up on your teenagers though….not that I have ever done it..I’m just sayin’)

4.       Safeguard your finances – Cybercriminals can snatch your banking information over Wi-Fi or unreliable third party online networks, so don’t log onto your finance accounts or enter monetary information online over unsecured networks.

5.       Change your password often – Since cybercriminals can potentially crack your password if you are using WiFi or a third-party computer, PC Tools recommends you change it often. PC Tools offers a free password generator at http://www.pctools.com/guides/password/.

6.       Avoid file-share websites – Be careful uploading your vacation pictures and videos on these kinds of web sites, as they can leave you vulnerable to viruses and malware. Fortunately PC Tools has products with behavioral protection to stop threats that have never been seen before. Check out http://www.pctools.com/spyware-doctor-antivirus/ and http://www.pctools.com/internet-security/.

7.       Turn on the Firewall – A Firewall protects your computer by preventing unauthorized users from gaining access to your computer through the Internet or a network. PC Tools offers Firewall Plus for free at http://www.pctools.com/firewall/.

8.       Don’t click and run – If you download a map or ticket, save it on your computer and scan it before opening. Never click on the “run” program option.

9.       Stay in safe places – If you’re traveling to a foreign country, be careful about international domains, for example those for Russia (.ru) which are frequently used by cybercriminals who want to avoid prosecution in the USA and UK.

10.   Keep your AntiVirus current – According to Edwards,  this is the #1 problem and prevention tip for public Wifi surfers.  A large percentage of people, either do not have anti-virus software, don’t have it up-to-date, or have let their licenses expire (how many times have you clicked “later, later, later” as you get those warnings that your Virus software is about to expire?)  There’s nothing worse than coming home with a tummy full of your favorite coffee only to find you computer is full of malware!

PC Tools offers products to keep your public moments safe at www.pctools.com.  Women over 45, should take care when they are out on public Wifi, as we have been less trained on the very real dangers that exist in cyberspace.  Let’s be safe out there!  (Quick, what TV show was that from?  Probably, only Women over 45 will get that right!)

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