For decades now, the coffee shop has become a sort of unofficial meeting place for business professionals, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and remote workers. But if you’re going to be spending a lot of time in coffee shops, you need a plan for safety and productivity.
Staying Safe in Public Workspaces
Coffee shops are attractive spots for numerous reasons. If you typically work from home, it’s nice to be around other people. If you’re accustomed to being cooped up in a cubicle, the wide-open view is a comfortable change of pace. There’s something refreshing about switching up your environment and participating in a different routine. But if you’re going to use the free internet at your local coffee shop, be smart about it.
“The term ‘free’ is something most people, especially parents on a budget, appreciate. We enjoy free samples at the grocery store, BOGO deals, and free WiFi when at a cafe, hotel, airport, or other public place. However, have you thought about what really happens when you or your children take advantage of that ‘free’ WiFi? You’re risking personal privacy and safety,” PrivacyParent explains.
Before you perform any more work in a coffee shop, you should take some time to understand the risks and develop a plan for staying safe. Here are some suggestions:
- Pick the Right Table
From a very practical point of view, it’s smart to be strategic about where you sit in a coffee shop. You never know who is looking over your shoulder and you’re better off finding a corner booth or secluded table where you don’t have to shield your screen from prying eyes.
It’s also wise to keep your belongings close to you. If you have a purse or briefcase, wrap the strap around the chair leg so that it can’t be swiped by someone passing by. Your phone should be kept in your pocket. Never, under any circumstances, leave your computer unattended.
- Use a VPN
Public WiFi isn’t nearly as secure as you think it is. While there are plenty of strategies for securing your connection, few are better than a virtual private network (VPN).
“A VPN encrypts your internet connection to secure it and protect your privacy,” TechRadar explains. “When connecting with a VPN, no one – not the internet service provider, the business/network owner nor any third-party hacker or snoop – can see the information you send over the network.”
Setting up and using a VPN is pretty easy. Take the time to educate yourself on how it works and choose a reliable provider to fit your needs and budget.
- Turn off Bluetooth
Bluetooth is awesome. It allows you to connect your smartphone to other devices – like speakers, headphones, and computers. But it’s best to turn off Bluetooth when you’re in a public space – such as a coffee shop. While unlikely, it’s possible that someone could use this connection to compromise or steal personal information.
- Only Access Secure Sites
When accessing the internet at a coffee shop, be sure only to use websites that offer a secure connection. You can quickly identify websites that are safe and encrypted by looking for the “HTTPS” designation in front of the URL. Most browsers will also show a closed padlock symbol in the search bar.
On a related note, it’s wise only to type URLs into your browser (as opposed to clicking links you receive in an email or message). Hackers are known to create links that mimic safe website – often by removing a single letter or changing the spelling. You can avoid this by taking matters into your own hands.
- Avoid Sensitive Activities
Regardless of whether you’re using a VPN and practicing smart browsing behaviors, it’s not smart to perform any sensitive online activities in a public space. This includes online banking, paying bills, processing business transactions, or signing legal documents.
You Need a Plan
You never know what’s out there. Your coffee shop might seem like a friendly place to cozy up and do a little work, but it could also be a magnet for hackers and unsavory online users. To combat these potential risks, you can establish certain safeguards and implement smart, preventative measures. It’ll feel like you’re going overboard, but it’s ultimately worth the extra effort.