October 24, 2016

Don’t be spooked by the horrors of public Wi-Fi

It’s fun being scared by tricks and pranks during Halloween season, but no one wants to be frightened by a cyberattack when using public Wi-Fi. More than 60 percent of people think their information is safe when using public internet, according to a recent study by cybersecurity company Symantec. But merely connecting to Wi-Fi at a coffee shop, airport or library can leave you vulnerable. 

With Halloween approaching, here are 10 helpful tips to protect your business device from the dangers of public Wi-Fi:

1. Use a VPN: The best technical solution to prevent your data from being hacked is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which creates an encrypted tunnel to protect your data. Since some networks may block VPN traffic, the VPN should be sent across HTTPS, which is generally allowed on most networks.

2. Make sure to use encrypted websites: One smart way to protect yourself when surfing the web is to access encrypted websites that begin with “https://.” These websites are considered more secure compared to those that begin with “http://.”

3. Secure your computer: Be sure to select the “public network” Wi-Fi option on your computer and not the “home network” or “work network” options. The public network option locks down the connection, ensuring your computer isn’t sharing any files or other sensitive data with machines on the local network. It’s also important to be up-to-date on security patches and use a firewall, like the one built into most laptops.

4. Be careful when shopping: Never store your credit card, bank account numbers or business information on a website, or even on your device, while using public Wi-Fi. This includes using Apple Pay, purchasing an item on Amazon or accessing your online banking account on public Wi-Fi. Use different passwords for your business accounts and personnel accounts.

5. Limit access to social media websites: Social media can be a necessary business tool, but logging into Facebook or LinkedIn and clicking on links from social media sites from a business device may leave your proprietary data at risk. It’s very easy for someone with malicious intent to infect your laptop by merely connecting with you on social media.   

6. Keep anti-virus software updated: There are a number of relatively inexpensive but effective antivirus software that will monitor and detect a malicious activity. You need to make sure your virus definitions are up to date. If it’s a well-known antivirus software, they will have automatic updates that keep you up-to-date.


7. Consider using a hotspot: Using a mobile or personal hotspot instead of connecting to public Wi-Fi may be the safest option. You will be able to create a unique name, set a password and you can also hide the hotspot network from public view.

8. Your company Wi-Fi may be just as dangerous:
Treat the shared Wi-Fi within your company’s four walls the same way you would a Starbucks Wi-Fi. It is a public access point so you should not share devices or files across it. Guests would be able to access it, and your wireless could actually reach as far as a parking lot across the street. This can provide access points to your company’s internal network and open up your vulnerability to possible hackers.


9. Educate employees within your company: Every business IT system should keep an acceptable use policy to educate employees on inappropriate and appropriate uses of their business devices. Handing out safety and security tips of the day is the best way to remind employees who do business outside of work.


10. Report a cybercrime immediately: If a user suspects their laptop has been compromised, they should report it to their corporate IT department and do an in-depth scan of the device to make sure it is not infected.


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