The other day I was at my favorite coffee shop and was struck by the fact that Christmas is just around the corner. The holiday cheer in the store was almost tangible as I looked at the festive decorations, smelled the holiday coffee themed beverages, and noticed the crowds of people wearing their preferred winter scarves as they were waiting. All this holiday spirit put a big smile on my face.
Something that quickly took the smile off my face was when a fellow customer left his computer to pick up his coffee order. It was clear he was using the free WiFi available to customers and, worse yet, was checking his bank balance when he left his screen vulnerable to prying eyes. Being a part of an industry that educates people about identity theft, I wanted to yell in the middle of the coffee shop, “Be careful with what personal information you input or access while surfing the Internet!”
Coffee shops are becoming targeted places for identity theft because of their often unsecured free WiFi networks. With an unsecured network, an identity thief is able to access a wide range of information including histories, login details, passwords, private emails, credit card information and much more.
What’s happening is when you see the “free public Wi-Fi” connections at coffee shops your laptop or PDA is connected through a series of points that may not be secure. Once you connect to this network, your personal records are available to potential thieves.
This holiday, if you’re at one of your favorite coffee shops waiting for a cup of Christmas-themed coffee, it is recommend that you refrain from checking important information on your laptop or PDA (such as online banking accounts or shopping online). With that said eggnog latte anyone?