The Washington Post’s “Tech Friend” newsletter suggests some “tech fears you can stop worrying about.” And it starts by reasuring readers, “You’re fine using the WiFi in a coffee shop, hotel or airport.
“Yes, it is safe,” said Chester Wisniewski, a digital security specialist with the firm Sophos. Five or 10 years ago, it wasn’t secure to use the shared WiFi in a coffee shop or another place outside your home. But now, most websites and apps scramble whatever you do online. That makes it tough for crooks to snoop on you when you’re connected to public WiFi. It’s not impossible, but criminals have easier targets.
Even Wisniewski, whose job involves sensitive information, said he connected to the WiFi at the airport and hotel on a recent business trip. He plans to use the WiFi at a conference in Las Vegas attended by the world’s best computer hackers. Wisniewski generally does not use an extra layer of security called a VPN, although your company might require it. He avoids using WiFi in China.
You should be wary of public WiFi if you know you’re a target of government surveillance or other snooping. But you are probably not Edward Snowden or Brad Pitt… For nearly all of us and nearly all of the time, you can use public WiFi without stress.
The newsletter also suggests we stop worrying about public phone chargers. (“Security experts told me that ‘juice jacking’ is extremely unlikely… Don’t worry about the phone chargers unless you know you’re being targeted by criminals or spies.”)
Beyond that, “Focus your energy on digital security measures that really matter” — things like using strong and unique passwords for online accounts. (“This is a pain. Do it anyway.”) And it calls two-factor authentication possibly the single best thing you can do to protect yourself online.