Public WIFI spots - how secure are youThe nature of our business means we work online, remotely for clients in various corners of the world. We go through our day-to-day life focusing on providing the best possible service to those clients and making sure we meet their deadlines. That might mean working from your home office one day, on the train whilst heading to a meeting the next, and perhaps even from a hotel room on holiday the day after that – yes, we’ve all had one of those moments!

So how secure does that make your computer files?

When you work from home of course you have all the security needed to ensure you keep nasty hackers at bay. But what about those times you’re out and about? How often do you check your emails when travelling? Or how about logging in to Dropbox or Google Drive to upload or download a document for your next meeting? Every time you do this you’re accessing information without using a secured network.

Oh and don’t think that I’m just referring to using your laptop or iPad, every time you check email via your Smartphone, you’re also at risk.

What’s the danger?

When you connect to WIFI in a coffee shop, hotel lobby, or airport, you’ll be connecting to an Unsecured Network. This means anyone and everyone within range can also connect to it. And what’s important to understand is that public WIFI spots do not offer encryption security to its users – meaning a lurking hacker with the right tools could gain access to your email, online storage, documents, website, and if you do online banking, those details too.

How can you prevent it?

Well aside from never checking your email remotely and only using websites that have ‘s’ on the end of the ‘http’ (indicating it has a Secure Socket Layer that encrypts the data between your mobile device and the website) the best solution is to purchase a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

A VPN provides you with the encryption needed to secure everything you do online when using WIFI from a public location. So if you work away from the office using public WIFI hot-spots regularly and you’re not already using a VPN, now is definitely the time to start.

The Pros.

  • Security: it encrypts your connection making it harder for hackers to gain access to your computer or mobile device.
  • Cost: Purchasing a VPN can cost from as little as $50 per year often broken down into monthly instalments. So for as little as $4 per month you can work from anywhere securely.
  • Ease: Once you’ve purchased a VPN you’ll be given your own personal username and password and have the ability to download the software to your home computer as well as all your other mobile devices. The VPN can also be setup to run automatically when you start any of those devices, so there’s no need to connect to it each time.

The Cons.

  • Slower speed: VPNs’ can slow down your online speed due to the extra security process it needs to travel through.
  • Blocked sites: You can be prevented from accessing some websites as well as from downloading certain size files.

OK, so you wait until you’re back at home before downloading larger files and simply grab another cup of coffee when surfing the internet, I’m sure you’ll agree the positives far outweigh the negatives.

As you know I live and work in France and I tend to move around a fair bit, so for me it’s necessary to use a VPN. But I must admit, when I looked into purchasing one I realised that I would choose to have a VPN regardless of where I lived or how much I worked remotely.

It only takes one hacker at the same WIFI hot-spot as you and a few minutes for the worst to happen.

As for which VPN to choose, I use Private Internet Access.

I chose it because it was rated highly by LifeHacker, and for the cost and reviews it seemed like a good choice. I’ve found it excellent. It hasn’t slowed my PC down at all, in fact in some instances I’ve found my connection quicker! It was incredibly easy to download and install on all my devices and the one time I needed some help, their online support team responded very quickly.

However during my research process I came across this list of top 10 VPN providers, which will give you an opportunity to decide for yourself: Top Ten VPN Providers

My advice? Don’t get caught out over as little as $50 per year. Regardless of how often you work using public WIFI spots, one day there may come a time when you have to, and that could be the day you wish you had purchased a VPN.