Wireless Security, Is It All In My Head?

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Austin, TX as I type this out. I mention that, because looking around this place, I can see several other people on their laptops typing and working away.

Coffee and Wireless Internet
Coffee and Wireless Internet

This particular coffee shop, is one of those places that caters to people that want to work from here. They have nice sturdy tables and plenty of power outlets. They also have free, publicly accessible wifi.

I noticed something when I was looking around, and it’s that I’m the only person here with my own wireless access point. Everyone else that’s here, and appears to be working online, seems to be connected to the shared, unencrypted, public wi-fi that the shop makes available.

I got up to get a refill and noticed that people were typing emails, blogging etc. One person was even doing some online banking, all from the public wi-fi network.  It made me wonder, am I the only person that is paranoid enough to not want to hop on the shared network?

Let me ask you this: Do you have your own access point? Do you tether your computer to your phone whenever you have/need to work remotely? Do you really trust that no one else on the network is doing something malicious? Am I being too paranoid?

I should clarify, that as far as I know, there’s no one here doing anything malicious. I should also mention, that even back when I did connect to the public wifi networks at coffee shops, I never had a problem with anyone doing anything bad to my computer.

Like many of the things that plague me, this too may just be in my head. Regardless, I think that it’s important for people to think about wireless security. Specially, if you’re doing online banking.

Comments

  1. says

    You are not paranoid. There are a lot of reasons to be cautious when using public Wi-Fi. AirTight did a study at airports a few years ago and the number of clients we saw infected with viral SSIDs was amazing enough, but we actually saw some core systems either open or poorly protect with WEP. http://www.airtightnetworks.com/home/resources/knowledge-center/airport-scan.html

    Having said that, the smartphone revolution is bringing new threats into the enterprise with their embedded Wi-Fi. Wireless security needs to be top of mind not an afterthought for corporations, whether or not they have wireless deployed. So as they say, you may be paranoid but that does not mean they are not out to get you.