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In this ever-evolving, cybercrime age, protection from security risks posed by public wi-fi is essential. While advancements in technology yield many innovative and useful products, there are also significant risks associated with these emerging technologies. As such, free wi-fi access can be viewed as both a blessing and cure.
Case in point, Starbucks, which is a popular restaurant chain, has built its reputation on a varied beverage menu and humanitarian efforts all over the globe. In the U.S., it is mainly recognized as a gathering place, with comfortable furniture options, where customers can enjoy tasty-yet-overpriced coffee beverages and free wi-fi access. While the public wi-fi is reliable and coffee is delightful, there are hazards that every Starbucks patron should be aware of before making this chain a habit. Namely, that the menu is not only indulgent from a financial standpoint but also from a nutritional perspective, and the restaurant chain’s Internet service poses security risks that could result in an even harder hit to its customers’ pocketbooks than their excessive prices.
Please do not misunderstand the intended message. This author is a fan of Starbucks coffee and enjoys the complimentary wi-fi access when she actually has time to kick back and enjoy it, or use a local Starbucks location as a work staycation. However, she is also well-versed about the potential hazards associated with not only Starbucks wi-fi service but public Internet access in general. Truth be told, it can have catastrophic effects on users’ lives and livelihoods if their personal information falls into the wrong hands.
Identity theft is a devastating crime, which continues to become more prolific and commonplace in this ever-evolving technological age. At this point, it does not even take a skilled hacker to commit such crimes. All it takes is a wi-fi interceptor device, which can be purchased online or in stores for under $100, along with the ability to read instructions and some basic computer knowledge. Thus, anyone who has $100 and some rudimentary hacking skills can buy one of these devices to target others, potentially ruining countless victims’ good names, credit ratings, and financial futures.
Needless to say, putting one’s credit and financial future at risk for some custom blend coffee and/or free wi-fi service is foolhardy, to say the least. Therefore, it is so important that wi-fi users learn how to protect themselves and their personal data from online hackers. After all, these scam artists are predators who rarely care about who their victims are or what their circumstances might entail. In most cases, these scammers are just looking to make a buck at other people’s expense. It does not matter whether someone has the wealth of Donald Trump, is a pauper, or a recent lottery winner, anyone’s identity can be stolen if they are not forewarned and properly prepared. With that being said, Internet users must arm themselves with mobile security protection, such as McAfee, Norton, and/or other anti-virus/malware/spyware products, to safeguard themselves from potential credit card fraud, personal data leaks, and other identity theft-related activities. These products are a must-have in this tech-savvy society. Whether someone is on their home-based Internet device(s) or enjoying the unsecured, open wi-fi available at Starbucks, as well as countless other public venues, mobile security safeguards are essential.
There are also free anti-virus and malware products available on the market, such as AVAST, Avira, and Panda. However, these free versions usually have limited capabilities and/or trial periods that require an upgrade to paid service, in order to benefit fully from the service.
Another crucial line of defense against hackers lies in virtual private network (VPN) providers, who offer devices, software, and/or services that enable users to encrypt their data. These products also help safeguard users’ personal information from prying eyes and make their attempts to breach customers’ data virtually impossible, especially for novice hackers.
The whole point of this article is to raise awareness and encourage readers to seek out protection from security risks posed by public wi-fi. The next time the need for complimentary Internet service arises, whether via Starbucks or some other public wi-fi access area, keep the information outlined in this article in mind. Before going online via unsecured Internet hubs, users should make sure the connected devices are protected with mobile security products. Moreover, for an added layer of protection, Internet users should consider looking into data encryption and VPN providers in an effort to instill fear in these online predators, who are out to make a living off other people’s names and hard-earned work. For more information on VPN providers and data encryption, do a thorough Google search, review tech guides, and research online auction sites. Hopefully, this article has provided readers with essential information on protection from security risks posed by public wi-fi and highlighted the fact that complimentary Internet service can be interpreted as a double-edged sword.
Opinion Written and Edited by Leigh Haugh
BullGuard Internet Security–Public Wi-Fi Networks Pose New Security Risk for Consumers
PC Magazine–The Best VPN Services of 2016
Kaspersky Lab–How to Avoid Public Wi-Fi Security Risks
CNET–Staying Safe on Public Wi-Fi
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