Protecting Yourself On Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is one of the greatest conveniences that our society can offer. The Internet can be accessed for free in certain locations, available for public use and just as useful as the Internet you might receive from a home network with multiple users.
Your business might be giving out public Wi-Fi as well, because it’s a great way to draw people in and have them spend time at your business. If your customers have to go through long waiting times at your business (ie. A consulting firm) or enjoy spending time at your business (ie. A restaurant), easily accessible Wi-Fi gives a positive impression of your business.
Your employees might also be using public Wi-Fi at other locations, while they are working offsite or doing remote work. They might also be meeting with other companies and using their Internet to access company files from your server.
The ease of access to the Internet has never been easier, allowing work to be done from any place in the world at any time.
However, that ease of access is a fact that hackers and cyber criminals would also like to take advantage of. Public Wi-Fi is not just a fantastic thing for you, but it’s a fantastic thing for them. It’s easier, not harder, for hackers to take your information in a public setting. After all, it’s not hard to take things from a public place.
But when you understand how a hacker can target you over public Wi-Fi, you can protect yourself and your employees so that they can continue to enjoy the benefits of public Wi-Fi.
What Is Wrong With Public Wi-Fi?
Public Wi-Fi may seem risky or an unwise decision, but there’s nothing inherently wrong with Wi-Fi itself.
What many people don’t think about is that businesses often want to get Wi-Fi access points to draw people in. Businesses won’t think about securing their access points as an IT administrator or company would do.
As a result, you’re often accessing the Internet from an unsecured location, as your Internet settings may tell/warn you when you’re connecting to them.
For the most part, this isn’t a huge problem. If you’re doing things like accessing websites with silly pictures or taking part in a simple online activity, nothing bad is going to happen.
But when you decide to access your personal email or do online banking, that’s where things start to get a bit dangerous. While hackers aren’t monitoring every single Wi-Fi network in the world waiting for someone to access their email, they can gather information from a single network that they might already be accessing themselves.
When a network isn’t secure, it means that anyone can “listen in” on your communications over the Internet. That means they can see your login details, personal information and even access some of the data (such as photos) that you are sending across the network.
This isn’t the best situation for anyone. You want information like that to be secure so that no one else can see it. If it’s not secure, then this information could be accessed by anyone, and in the wrong hands it could set you up for a lifetime of problems.
Now you might hear from people that it isn’t likely to happen to you, and to be honest, it’s not like accessing an unsecured network means that someone will definitely mean that you will be the victim of a crime. But it is the sort of risk that, if people are aware of it, they are not likely to take.
Businesses, especially employees, don’t want to take that risk. Their communications may contain confidential information that shouldn’t be in the hands of other people. But they might have no choice but to use an unsecured network if they are going to get their work done.
While there’s nothing wrong with public access to the Internet, the security around it may not be practical for you and your work.
How Can I Protect Myself Over Public Wi-Fi?
Of course, there may be times where you don’t have a choice but to work over an unsecure network. It’s either that or a business deal runs out, and if we’re being honest, you’re probably going to use an unsecure network out of necessity or price rather than because you know it’s safe.
To protect yourself, it’s helpful to take some security measures in your office to ensure that employees can work safely should they need to use public Wi-Fi.
Education remains the best defence against IT attacks. By understanding the risks that an unsecure network can expose you to, employees are more likely to be sensible with their actions.
Have your IT department have a talk with them and/or bring an expert in to discuss what they should or shouldn’t do on an unsecure network. Advice goes a long way, especially when you highlight the risks.
For example, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with watching a YouTube video or looking at news on a news website. But logging in to social media or personal email could be a risk to personal security.
Also, teaching employees to look for secure networks is always helpful. Not every network you can connect to will be unsecure, and most locations with secure networks are always willing to give you the access details if you have a good reason to use it.
You can also include what files should or shouldn’t be accessed. It’s alright to work on personal files that won’t be sent over the network, but if you’re connecting to a company server on an unsecure network, it might be better to not access them for security purposes.
It may seem like a lot of steps to access to prevent something that is not likely to happen to you in the first place, but the risk and damage that can occur because you were targeted (and it does happen) can ruin everything and leave your employees (and possibly yourself) out of a job.
Look Into Getting A Virtual Private Network
You might have heard of the acronym “VPN”, which stands for Virtual Private Network. It’s a network that can be accessed through the Internet, but all the data on that network is encrypted.
What that means is that even if hackers were monitoring the network and the access point, they’d be seeing encrypted data that they can’t decode or decrypt. Your information is entirely safe.
You will have to work with your IT department to get one set up, but if you manage to do so, your employees can easily access the network and not have to worry too much about unsecure networks threatening their company situation.
Protection Is That Simple
No one is saying that you will be attacked, that hackers are monitoring every network in the world, or that unsecure networks are the bane of Internet existence.
But the threat is real, and the damage that can be caused when your data is taken from an unsecure network is never going to be minor.
As always, education and smart technology practices can help you and your employees work safely without compromising on security, work efficiency or effectiveness.
If you need help setting up a VPN, we at MSP Blueshift are more than happy to take a look at your needs and advise you on what to do.
We hope you enjoyed this article! If you liked it, share it with your friends and family, and follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @mspblueshift and on LinkedIn! Call us at 1300 501 677 for a look at your IT today!