Elizabeth Rodgers is the co-founder of Ben's Ranch, a personal and small business technology service company. An award-winning writer and filmmaker, Elizabeth has taken her enthusiasm for narrative to create a voice, face and story for Bens Ranch to address our core client the multi-tasking mom with very little time to spare.

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Internet Cafe Safety

Do you get more work done if you can get out of your house or office? Let’s say your location of preference is a coffee house with free Internet access. (Yeah, let’s just say…) It feels better to “work” when you know that there are others working around you, right? Do you sometimes procrastinate by going online to check your email, sports scores or any website that will give you 5 minutes of sugar? Me too – just not the sports scores. Did you know how easy it is for the person “working” on the laptop next to you to see everything you’re doing online? I’m talking about every email you send or receive and every website you visit. There are free softwares available (even for Macs!) for people to “sniff” out your business. Thought you should know.

Are people doing this all the time? Who knows? Probably not. But it is a possibility…

If you’re not looking at anything earth shattering or exchanging more than banal emails with your friends, who cares, right? As long as you know there’s a risk that it could happen, you won’t send your kids’ social security numbers over an insecure connection to your husband.

But let’s say you are a very private person and can’t stand the possibility of some interloper looking at your business? There are solutions:

  • You can sign up for encrypted email services, some of which are free. Try these:
  • If you have file sharing preferences on at home, make sure to turn them off when you go onto a public Wifi connection.
  • If you’re connecting back to a home office or small business, you can get someone to install for you a VPN (Virtual Private Network), which will encrypt everything sent to and from your laptop. A VPN is a lot more affordable than it used to be. Think of it as a private tunnel on the Internet from your laptop back to your office.
  • If the website you are visiting has a padlock in the corner or if the URL starts with https:// (with the ‘S” as opposed to http://), that means that you are on a secure website and your transmissions will be safe and private. Look at your bank’s website, it will have the https://
  • Wait until you get to a secure network to exchange emails or to visit a website that you are intent on keeping private.

Most people who snoop, if they’re skilled enough to get through encryption, have more incentive to chase Citibank or UCLA to get bank account lists or social security numbers and not someone sitting with their laptop at Coffee Bean with their vacation photos.

Even though I know all of these things, I don’t encrypt my laptop. Why? I don’t think my transmissions are all that interesting. And I’m too busy “working.”

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