You, Public Wi-Fi, and Overpriced Coffee

Today’s blog is guest written by Rick Lowe.  Rick is the Business Development Manager for a couple of verticals here at En-Net.  The opinions are his.  The advice, such as it is, also his.  The jokes, Rick tells me, belong to the ages.

-Kyle Yost, President, En-Net Services (and longtime friend of Rick)

What?!  They’re Giving WI-FI Away?

So you just sat down with your Triple, Venti, Half Sweet, Non-Fat, Caramel Macchiato.  Your name is spelled wrong on the cup, ear buds are in, and Spotify is killing it today.  Now for a bit of guilt-free surfing on the net.  Scroll through some social media, maybe?  Dip your toe into some click-bait websites for a bit of a change.  Online videos showing people playing Minecraft (yes that is a thing)?  And all on the dime of the coffee shop/café/bistro of the day.   I paid 12 bucks for this one single cup of coffee, but, Hey!  the wi-fi is free.

Off you go.

Whoa! Slow your roll, as the hipsters of today once said, before they discovered PBR, Brooklyn, and skinny jeans.

That free wi-fi hides a danger to your device greater than the danger that caffeine and sugar in your “coffee” poses to your health.   Pro Tip:  It’s never too late to invest in statins.

So some tips, free of charge, from you friends at En-Net, about keeping yourself safe on public wi-fi (That coffee, though:  you’re on your own.  And 12 bucks?!  Really?  You need a Man-in-the-Middle between your wallet and the barista!).

Staying safe on Public Wi-Fi.  Or, VPN is the adult’s Safe Space.

Before going any further . . .about the point of this post . . . . being safe on public wi-fi?  Well,  you can’t.  Wait, wait!  Please don’t stop reading!  You can mitigate the danger, but you should think of public wi-fi like you think of Uncle Marv at family reunions:  loaded!

Tip #1   How do you spell Dunkin’?

Make sure you are on the proper wi-fi network.  I have a neighbor that thinks himself hilarious with the names he assigns to his wi-fi, knowing that we are seeing his network names on our home computer.  For a couple of months his network name was “SmellwhattheRickiscooking” (My name is Rick.  I hate my neighbor).  Like I said, hilarious.   When you are in public, a pretty easy scam is to have a private network that is nearly identical to the actual network name.  For all the unsuspecting, not-so-careful folks out there it is easy to click on a deliberately close-but-not-exactly-the-same wi-fi name, and they end up sitting on the bad guy’s internet.    Best to double check.  Then check once more.   Remember: there is only one ‘L’ in McDonalds.

Tip #2   Those who would sacrifice freedom for (public wi-fi) security deserve neither.

Free can sure be costly.   That coffee place you and your special someone are visiting while not talking to each other, their business model isn’t based around providing free, best-in-class cyber security architecture:  it’s about over-charging for a cup o’ joe (where the real money is).   Oh, I’m sure they have cutting edge tech, and tight policies for the PoS, but that network for the guests is an actual. . . ., well you get the picture.  Faster than you can say Bob’s-your-mocha-latte, your mobile device is being ground down (see what I did there) to nothing.  Your login, browsing habits, keystrokes, etc are all now vulnerable.  Industry standards suggest that the cost to clean up a device after an intrusive event to be 150 Venti, Latte, Chilled, something, somethings.   Be wary.  And careful.

Tip #3  Burners:  they’re not just for The Wire anymore.

Set up a dummy email account so that when asked for your email address for special promotions and events (and yet another party is invited to the “Assault My Device Derby”) you can keep your primary email clean.  (Me, I have an AOL address as a burner: I plan to be the last man standing.)  This isn’t going to necessarily keep someone from phishing (should you do the unthinkable and click a link), but it will park that email someplace you don’t frequent.  Not unlike Uncle Marv’s house.

Tip #4  YEAH!  You Participated!

Well, you did your best.

Eavesdroppers gotta eaves.  Hackers gotta hack.  In a strange way, they care a lot more about your online habits than you do.  If you’re like me, you just want to be left alone to look at pictures of misspelled tattoos.  The hackers, on the other hand, are working.  Yes, the barista is selling you 12 dollar hand-crafted coffee with beans that passed through a monkey, but at least he is robbing you honestly.  The amount of time and effort that goes into developing snooping software designed to plague mobile devices on public wi-fi networks is astounding.  (Insert impressive stat here).   Instead of a participation trophy, you get your mobile pay app hacked.    Which leads us to the last tip (and really the only tip in this study)

Tip 5    VPN:You :: Linus’ blankey:Linus

There are two ways to stay safe:  abstinence or a VPN.   Go with the VPN; I well know the Siren call of free wi-fi, and, anyway, we both know you are going to do it.   I could give you all the details about setting up a VPN, cost, application details, specs and even make a recommendation about purchasing (I know a great IT company with dedicated Account Managers who are poised to address any IT, Power, or Cyber Security questions you might have).  Actually, I can’t do any of that, (other than the recommendation:  you are going to love working with this company.  Email me for details).   Wrapped in the warmth and comfort of your VPN, you can surf, crush candy, and ignore the beauty, grace and wonder that is the world around you without the fear that the “guy-who-always-seems-to-be-in-here” is data-mining your device.

To review:  Free, public wi-fi, like most free public things, is dangerous and scary.  (Not unlike Uncle Marv).   As with any exposure to the internet, it pays to be safe rather than sorry.  Seek the fullest protection possible when venturing out onto the web in public, and make sure your devices have the most up-to-date security solutions available (you do need to email me about that IT company!).  And maybe, just maybe, rather than accessing the free wi-fi, enjoy the company, or the view, instead.  Your face-to-face conversation is hack-proof!


Rick Lowe is the BDM for Eaton, and Cyber Security Initiatives at En-Net Services, and quite the hypocrite about accessing free wi-fi when in public with friends and loved ones. His non-burner email is  He has an hilarious neighbor (not referenced in this post) but is without a dangerous Uncle Marv.  The opinions expressed are his own (whoever else’s opinions should he have?).

This entry was posted on Friday, April 27th, 2018 at 4:29 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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