Café culture – working safely in coffee shops


A university library can be a lively place, even if in theory it should a cathedral dedicated to quiet study. So for students who don’t mind a bit of a muted buzz – but want to avoid the temptations of being around large groups of their friends – it can be tempting to escape to the café down the road just to get some work done.

Although at one time, studying in a café may have been frowned upon by your tutor, times have changed. Research has shown that a coffee shop is actually the perfect place to concentrate, as a moderate background noise of music and chatter may actually boost productivity, triggering the brain to come up with more creative ideas.

With many cafés now having Wi-Fi hotspots, it also means it’s easier to keep connected to your tutors than ever before. According to recent research from Ofcom, the vast majority of young internet users are accessing the web from a laptop, rather than a PC.

However, all this easy accessibility is not without its pitfalls and it pays to be aware of the potential dangers when you are using a public Wi-Fi signal, just in case some wily internet hacker manages to obtain the information about your student current account.

Here are the top ways you can keep safe when working in a café. Follow them for peace of mind that your laptop will not give too much of your personal information away or let the wrong data in.

Try to view your online banking accounts at home only

When you are using free Wi-Fi, remember that your data is not secure – basically anyone can see it. So although it may be tempting to do things like checking bank accounts online while sipping on a latte, stick to online banking at home and only use cafés for general surfing. It is incredibly easy for your details to be tracked and followed if you’re using someone else’s Wi-Fi, particularly if you’ve not even been asked for a password to use the establishment’s service. The same goes for online shopping.

Make sure you have good security software, and update it frequently

Make sure you have good anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on your laptop, as well as a software firewall. And whenever your laptop prompts you to download an upgrade, make sure you do it - these are designed to protect your data. Just have a good read first, to make sure you know the source of the update and that it matches your existing security software.

Be clever with your computer login password

When sharing a free Wi-Fi network, the person next to you only needs to guess your login password to gain access to your hard drive. So you need to be really inventive, making your password extraordinarily hard to predict by using a combination of letters, symbols and numbers.

Turn off ‘sharing’

If you leave file or printer sharing turned on by default, it’s a bit like leaving the front door unlocked in your home when you go out. It means that anyone using the same Wi-Fi network can access all the files on your computer, no matter how sensitive they are.

Make sure you’re using the right network

Don’t just buy your coffee, open your laptop and click on the first network name in the list – always ask the establishment for the correct name. Be especially wary of network names like ‘free Wi-Fi’ or even the name of the coffee shop if it needs no password – it could be a bogus network set up by a third party to trick you into connecting to it in order to collect data from your device.

This article has been written for information and interest purposes only and should not be construed as advice or used to make financial decisions. Expert financial advice should always be sought and any links contained within this article are included for information purposes only. Links to third party websites are not an endorsement by us of products and services on such websites. You have entered a website owned and operated by and will be subject to their website's terms and conditions.

Issued by Barclays  Bank PLC. Registered in England. Barclays Bank PLC is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). Registered No 1026167. Registered Office:  1 Churchill Place, London, E14 5HP.

For further information about Barclays, please visit our website