Millions of enterprise employees and contract workers do their jobs outside of an office, typically on desktops and laptops at home. But nearly all of these home-based workers — not to mention office-based employees who frequently travel — eventually need to find a public WiFi connection to do their jobs. I am one of them. (In fact, I’m typing this from a local coffee shop with spotty wireless service apparently configured to torment me.)
For all of us digital nomads, there’s good news, courtesy of CIO.com‘s James A. Martin: A Web-based service (with accompanying iOS and Android mobile apps) called Workfrom provides crowd-sourced listings and ratings for venues that offer public WiFi in more than 1,250 cities around the world.
Go to the Workfrom site and you can search any location for a range of services, including public and private spaces, fast WiFi, a power source, or local deals. A search will return a map with locations, as well as filtering options for alcohol, food, level of noise and more.
You don’t even have to join Workfrom to use the search function, but those who do decide to join “the community of free range humans and work from anywhere citizens” can take advantage of discount offers from more than two dozen Workfrom partners.
All this being said, now is a good time to remind mobile workers that with such freedom comes responsibility. (I know, I already sound like a parent or IT security pro, both of whom know they are wasting their breath, but have to try anyway.) Public WiFi connections can be notoriously unsafe, so working safely at the local coffee shop requires some fundamental security best practices. Here are four that will go long way toward protecting your data, apps and network connections as you knock back that third refill:
Use a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your connection from a public hotspot and gives you an anonymous IP, thus preserving your privacy. VPN service can cost less than $10 month, a great deal for enterprises that have road warriors to secure.
https:// only. Websites with an “s” attached to “http” use certified SSL encryption, which shields all data sent from a laptop to the site, including passwords, personal information, credit card numbers, enterprise data and more.
Beware of fake WiFi SSID names. Most public spaces have a single, recognizable WiFi connection. If you’re in Fred’s Coffee Shop and you’re looking at a list of 12 SSID names, you want to connect to the one that says “FredsCoffeeShopWiFi” before “TryMe” or “Free Public WiFi.”
An old OS is a vulnerable OS. Still using Windows Vista or even Windows 7? You’re asking for trouble. Make sure your devices are able to access the latest security updates and fixes. The disaster you avert could be your own.
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