Security's Everyman

Security's Everyman

Friday, September 05, 2008

How NOT to work securely from a coffee shop

Many of you are aware that my favorite independent coffee shop closed about a month ago. Since then I'm having a hard time finding a good place to work from when I don't go into the office. I've tried another local coffee shop that is just too small and uncomfortable to work from. I've tried 2 different Starbucks that have very poor reception for my AT&T air card so VPN is out of the question. Today I decided to drive a little farther to another Starbucks to try it out. Air card reception is good, coffee is good, atmosphere (music, tables, light, etc) is good. So I'm pretty happy.

When I got here there there several people sitting around so I found a table next to a wall with an outlet and set up shop. The table is one of three along a long booth seat. The middle table was empty and the other end table was occupied by a lady who also was set up to work. Papers were out, cell phone on the table, laptop up and running.  Shortly after I got here a friend of her's walked in and spoke to her. After getting his coffee he came back and asked her if she had a minute to talk. She said sure and he said lock your laptop and come with me.  She looked at him like he was a little off in the head and said "What do you mean?" He told her to password protect her laptop so that this guy (looking at me) won't steal all of your personal info. I looked at him and said "Good advice, I am a hacker". Then, of course, I told him that I was one of the good guys. So she locks her laptop and they go to the parking lot.

While she is in the parking lot with this guy all of her stuff is right here. Laptop, purse, cell phone, papers (insurance settlement related I gathered from her phone conversations), purse (which I'm sure had here wallet with license, credit cards, etc). They were gone for several minutes, plenty of time for someone with less morals and ethics to do lots of damage. After a while she come back and unlocks her laptop and goes back to work. After a few minutes she places a call and starts talking about work stuff. I heard her mention a claim settlement and then she seemed to realize that she was in public so she gets up and walks to the back of the store. Again, everything is left right there but this time her Laptop is not locked. She can't see the table she was at and I can't see her. Another perfect opportunity to take something, read something, load keystroke logger, get CC #'s etc.... It's a good thing I'm a good guy.

After about 15 minutes she comes back and goes back to work. Again after just a short time she's talking on the phone and tells the person that she can go to her car and print something out. I guess she has a 12v converter in her car. So she unplugs her laptop, picks up her purse and leaves the building. She's getting better but she left her phone and papers sitting there. In a few minutes her phone rings and it's all I can do not to answer it. I resist and a few minutes later she returns with her purse and laptop. Plugs back up and gets to work.  She stayed with her stuff for the rest of the time she is in the store, that is right up to the time she is ready to leave. She shuts down, unplugs and stacks everything up in a nice and neat stack. Then she goes to the bathroom with her stuff nicely stacked up and ready to be walked out the door. The shop was empty by now except for myself, the lady and a couple of employees who were not in sight.

This is a perfect example of what not to do. She made so many mistakes that I started to wonder if maybe this was some sort of a sting operation. I envision agents in the parking lot waiting with hands on guns for someone to do something illegal. Maybe someone with a high power lens across the street snapping pictures. If so then they failed to make a bust today. Maybe next time they will have more luck. :)

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