Public Wi-Fi not as secure as you think

Wi-Fi has become ubiquitous, it’s hard to go somewhere and not be able to connect or detect a network. With the large number devices that can both broadcast and receive Wi-Fi, many with no or basic level security, security of your data and device can be an issue when you’re out of the office and connecting to these networks.

Here are some ways you can protect yourself while connecting to, or using, Wi-Fi devices when you’re out of the office.

Be aware of the purpose of Wi-Fi
It’s important to remember the main idea of Wi-Fi. Many people think that Wi-Fi is a secure way to access the Internet. While 99% of the time, it’s secure enough, the underlying concept of Wi-Fi is that it’s meant to be convenient before anything else. Because of this, security often isn’t as important to device manufacturers.

Unsecure at your own risk
It’s a high probability that you’ve connected to an unsecure or open Wi-Fi network – no password needed to connect – before. It may be tempting to connect to open networks but you should be aware that data transmitted over the network can be stolen relatively easy. A sophisticated hacker can easily see connected devices and access them.

Think of it this way: many small businesses encourage their employees to put documents or files into a shared folder on a computer that anyone connected to the network can access. If some of these files are on a laptop you take out of the office, and no file sharing restrictions have been set, they will be shared with users of any network you connect to. If that network is unsecure, your files are fair game whether you like it or not.

It’s a good idea to connect to public networks that require passwords when possible, as they tend to be more secure. Many public networks have a legal disclaimer stating network use and security. It pays to read these before connecting.

Turn Wi-Fi off
We don’t mean you should turn your Wi-Fi off permanently, rather, when you’re not using your device, or are connected to another network, e.g., mobile data, turn your Wi-Fi connection off. If you have Wi-Fi on while connected to another network, your device can and will actively search for networks to connect to and often connect to an unsecure network, unintentionally exposing your information.

Use HTTPS when possible
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). In layman’s terms this is a website that has been built with security of user’s data in mind. Many popular websites have a HTTPS version that can be accessed by typing in Using HTTPS makes websites a lot harder to hack, and it’s a good idea to get into the habit of using them when on a public network or connected to Wi-Fi outside of the office.

Use data not public hotspots
Hotspots are public Wi-Fi connections usually provided by a company e.g., many coffee shops have Wi-Fi, this is a hotspot. These can be unsafe, so it’s much better to invest in a data connection for your device, or a mobile Internet stick, which are considerably safer as the data is encrypted before it’s transferred from the cell tower to your device.

Use a VPN
A Virtual Private Network – VPN – connects multiple computers in different locations to the same network via the Internet. Many companies use this to connect and share data with satellite offices, as the data is encrypted and secure. The main benefit to VPNs is that you can connect to a public Wi-Fi network, and transfer data securely using the network’s bandwidth. Many businesses use some form of VPN, which makes it easy for you to keep your business data secure while out of the office.

There are also VPNs that allow you to securely access the Internet via a public Wi-Fi connection, while encrypting all data sent and making your computer anonymous. It’s recommended that if you’re out of the office a lot, to look into a VPN and follow these other tips. If you’re interested, we may have a solution for you, so please contact us.

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