Do’s and don’ts when using public Wi-Fi

Dos and don’ts when using public Wi-Fi

Accessing the internet from within the confines of your office is relatively safe. Most corporate networks are fortified with firewalls, passwords, and encryption protocols that give hackers a tough time. However, it’s a different story when you decide to work outside the office.

Public Wi-Fi networks like the ones in hotels, airports, and local cafes are everywhere, but they’re inherently less secure than a private network. You don’t know who created them, let alone who has access to them. If you’re ever in a situation where you need to connect to public Wi-Fi, err on the side of caution and heed the following tips.

Do connect to trustworthy public networks

Not all public networks are created equal. For example, free cafe Wi-Fi hotspots tend to be more vulnerable than other networks because they can be accessed by anyone without user authentication.

Hackers may even set up rogue networks in highly populated venues (like airports) to lure potential targets and compromise their devices. Avoid these by abstaining from questionably named networks like “FREE Wi-Fi.” Also, be cautious of networks that let you access them regardless of the password you enter — these are probably fake.

By contrast, hotel Wi-Fi networks are much safer since each guest is usually provided a unique set of logins to connect to the internet.

Don’t use public Wi-Fi to access sensitive data

The problem with public Wi-Fi networks is that hackers can tap into them and intercept any information travelling between your device and the wireless router. This means if you access your emails or log in to enterprise apps, hackers will be able to see what you’re doing and steal your sensitive data.

A good rule to follow is to access information that you don’t mind anyone seeing. It’s okay to check the news, find directions to your destination, and visit online forums since they don’t involve personal or work information.

Don’t shop online while connected to unsecured networks

Making online transactions may seem harmless, but this too can be tracked by cybercriminals over public networks. In fact, it’s even more dangerous because you may inadvertently give away credit card numbers, security codes, and other vital financial information.

The best thing you can do is use your mobile carrier’s 4G LTE network when buying something online. Carrier networks are more secure because they encrypt your data and protect your identity. You should also only access sites that are prefixed with “https” not “http.” The “https” security protocol safeguards the information you access and enter on websites, ensuring that no one snoops on your online purchases.

Do use a virtual private network (VPN)

If you need to access sensitive information and public Wi-Fi is the only option, a VPN is the most effective way to stay safe. A VPN encrypts data travelling to and from your device, and connects you to a highly secure server. This conceals any web activity from cybercriminals who may be connected to the same network. 

Don’t leave your mobile device unattended

Even if your mobile device has the best possible security settings, the risk of loss or theft is always present. Hackers can simply snatch your smartphone or look over your shoulder to gain access to sensitive company data. If you’re working in public, find a secluded area and keep your devices with you at all times.

Do turn off file sharing 

Modern devices are designed to streamline file sharing with nearby devices. The problem is that anyone can exploit these settings to swipe files from your computer or send malicious documents your way.

To protect your business, you’ll want to disable file sharing options when you’re not using them. On a Windows laptop, that means going to Network & Internet Settings > Wi-Fi > Change advanced sharing options and turn off network discovery and file sharing. For Macs, go to System Preferences > Sharing and cancel all file sharing options. If you’re using iOS, simply disable Airdrop in the Control Center.

Do install security software

While mobile devices have built-in firewalls, implementing third-party security software can go a long way in fending off attacks. Consider installing advanced anti-malware apps to prevent malicious programs from entering your device through unsecured networks.

Another important solution is mobile device management (MDM) software, which allows you to control company-registered devices from a centralised console. In practice, you’ll be able to limit what apps and data employees can access when they’re outside the corporate network. This even lets you wipe data from fully compromised devices to minimise the impact of a breach.

Don’t forget about software updates

Developers tend to release new updates to secure any glaring weaknesses in their apps and firmware. By installing the latest patches for your firewalls and security software, you dramatically reduce the likelihood of an attack via public Wi-Fi. Enable automatic app updates to keep security vulnerabilities to a minimum. 

Remote work comes with its fair share of risks, but it’s well worth it if you implement the right tools and strategies. Empower IT Solutions is a leading managed services provider that offers powerful mobile security solutions for Australian businesses. Call us today to find out what you need to work safely on the go.

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