Working from a coffee shop can be a refreshing change of pace. Many times it will add some much needed jolt into a stale brief.
Lawyers should always be careful about security when using public networks and some new applications make it incredibly easy for another person to hack into your Facebook or Twitter account when you are on a public Wi-Fi connection.
Beware of open networks
For the most part, when you go to a local coffee shop, library, etc., the Wi-Fi connections are open networks. Your connection to sites like Twitter and Facebook are secure, but the sites send a cookie (think of it as a shortcut) that identify you as the user and allow you to keep browsing.
The problem is that those cookies are not always encrypted and a devious individual who is also on the network can acquire that information—and login into your Twitter or Facebook account as you.
New programs make it easy to hack into social media
Firesheep is a Firefox extension that is free and literally requires one click. Once installed, the program will scan the open Wi-Fi network and show you who is using what social media application. With the click of a button, you can access their account.
It also appears the program will work on Google Apps accounts, but Gmail apparently encrypts all cookies.
That is downright scary.
How to avoid getting hacked
The easiest solution is to stay away from public Wi-Fi networks. If you are working at a coffee shop, using your smartphone to access your email and social media accounts. Your smartphone should be able to get internet access without using the Wi-Fi.
If your smartphone supports tethering, create a personal network with a password and use your phone as the internet connection. The FCC also has some tips for security on their website.
The bottom line, however, is that you should proceed with caution when using open Wi-Fi networks.