TIANJIN, CHINA - 2018/01/08: Hand holding a coffee cup in a Starbucks coffee shop. Since January 1st, Starbucks took back the management rights of more than 1300 stores in East China from the agent's hands, and has achieved 100% running and ownership in the mainland of China. The move is to speed up its expansion and development in China. (Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Starbucks understood years ago that enticing remote and home-based workers to their stores with free Wi-Fi was good business. Many coffee-drinkers take advantage of this perk the company offers for many reasons. For the price of one or two cups of java, you can not only get free Wi-Fi, but free air conditioning.

One woman, an expat in Mexico, did her freelance writing at the local Starbucks because they have a much faster and more reliable internet connection. (Proving once again that the famous coffee-shop can be found everywhere.) There was a second reason: her AirBNB did not include air conditioning.

Unfortunately, many patrons don’t think about the dangers of using publicly-accessible Wi-Fi. According to cybersecurity experts at VPNpro.com, “Data protection might be the toughest battle of the 21st century.” To help you win that battle, we give you three ways to stay secure and safe on Starbucks Wi-Fi.

#1 – Use VPN

If you’re going to work at Starbucks, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to access their public Wi-Fi. The problem with Starbucks Wi-Fi is that the connection is unencrypted. This allows hackers an easy way worm their way into your internet session and your devices. A high-quality VPN from a trusted vendor encrypts that connection.

There are many VPN vendors to choose from, but it matters which one you select. We strongly recommend paid VPN. Free is always tempting (heck, you’re in Starbucks for the free Wi-Fi), but free isn’t always better. Part with a few dollars for a more secure and robust VPN. To help you select a solid VPN vendor, VPNpro has tested and reviewed the best of the best. There are many other reasons to use a VPN, including the ability to surf the web anonymously. (Only you know why you might want to do that.)

#2 – Virus and Malware Protection

VPN and virus / malware protection go hand in hand. Those hackers can be sneaky. A high-quality VPN should keep them out, but you always want to use a multi-pronged approach to data protection. A virus, by the way, is actually a type of malware. The term “malware” describes any malicious code. A virus is nasty code written specifically to self-replicate.

There are many different types of malware including spyware, worms, trojans, adware, ransomware, and more. Ransomware is a higher risk for businesses. If you’re a remote worker, your company may have a program specifically designed for ransomware. If you are using Starbucks or any public Wi-Fi, select antivirus / antimalware software that is robust from a high-quality vendor. Free software is available, and better than no protection, but we feel safer with a paid version. Your call.

#3 – Turn on Your Firewall

Both MAC and Windows operating systems offer firewall protection. You need to go into your security settings to turn it on. A firewall is code that determines whether data should be allowed to come in or go out. It also can protect you from hacking. Hackers send out calls (known as “pings”) to random computers in hopes of getting a response. If they receive a response, they know that computer’s firewall is down. There are other software and hardware firewalls available, but the one that comes with your operating system is sufficient for most users.

Bonus Tips

If you are using Starbucks as an office, you will likely be in the store for at least a couple of hours. Not too many people can sit for that long without having to get up. Maybe to use the bathroom or buy another muffin (or two). Don’t ask strangers to watch your laptop. Leave a note saying you’ll be right back. Drape a sweater you don’t mind losing over the chair. Then slip your laptop and any other devices into your backpack and take it with you.

Prying eyes are everywhere. When you’re typing in a password or security code, cover the screen with your hand or lean over the keyword. Also, buy a security screen for your laptop and a camera cover. Neither are expensive and both offer added protection.

Starbucks now requires an email address to use their Wi-Fi. We recommend having a separate email account for this and other companies who require it. Yes, you can opt out, but this way they won’t even know your personal or company email.

Great Coffee and Wi-Fi

Starbucks is still a good alternative to a home office. It is in the top three for Wi-Fi speed and makes a mean cup of joe. (We’re also fans of their sandwiches and salads.) Our tips will keep you secure and safe on Starbucks’ Wi-Fi. We do recommend foregoing a free VPN and anti-virus software. The money you save on free air conditioning will more than pay for this important protection.