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Why You Should Think Twice Before Using Coffee Shop Wi-Fi

In a new list of public Internet spots most at risk of hacking, cafes came out top.
Photo via Flickr user HAMZA BUTT

You can sense the barista's internal eye-roll when your coffee order is quickly followed by a request for the Wi-Fi password. We've all done it. Taking advantage of a cafe's free Internet to do some Very Important Work for your boss (read: procrastinate and stream the latest Master of None episode) as you eke out a double espresso. Or perhaps nursing the dregs of a matcha latte while compulsively refreshing your Instagram feed.


Sure, tapping loudly on a MacBook or flicking through your phone with a grande cappuccino by your side makes you appear busy and important, but according to a new security report compiled by global mobile Wi-Fi provider iPass, it could be putting your device at risk from hackers.

Published today, the report surveyed 500 businesses across the US, UK, Germany, and France and found cafes and coffee shops to be the public Wi-Fi venues most at risk of hacking. Other places the report deemed dangerous for Wi-Fi usage were airports, hotels, exhibition centres, and airplanes.

The report stated that while any open network leaves laptops and mobiles vulnerable to interception, people using Wi-Fi-connected devices in cafes are particularly at-risk because cyber-security here is likely to be lax.

Commenting on the report in a press release, Raghu Konka, vice president of engineering at iPass said: "Cafes and coffee shops are everywhere and offer both convenience and comfort for mobile workers, who flock to these venues for the free high speed Internet as much as for the the coffee. However, cafes invariably have lax security standards, meaning that anyone using these networks will be potentially vulnerable."

Just as well you're watching Netflix instead of filing that top-secret report.