The number of devices wirelessly connecting to the Internet is growing exponentially. Your garage door and dishwasher – examples of the Internet of Things – are now accessible from your smartphone and they will notify the repairman when they break. Employees are bringing their phones, tablets and laptops to work (BYOD) and connecting them to the company network. You can argue whether these devices help or hinder productivity, but there is no argument that they pose a potential risk to your personal identity and your firm’s data. How do you protect your data from this ever increasing threat?
A secure Wi-fi connection goes a long way toward protecting your data and public Wi-fi connections (like those at restaurants and hotels) are not up to the task. If you’re out on a business trip and you connect to one of these lackluster access points, you’re taking a big risk. Open public Wi-fi spots don’t encrypt data, so your device is practically an open book waiting to be analyzed by hackers.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Your business has plenty of solutions available to keep your device’s data secure from hackers while providing accessibility.
Disable Any Wi-fi Adapters Some devices automatically connect to whatever wireless networks are available, regardless of whether or not they are secured. Turn off automatic connection settings on all devices. This way, you can manually connect to the safest alternative network available at the time.
Embrace Secure Connections When choosing which connection you want to use for your work, make sure you use one which is encrypted. This makes things difficult for hackers who want to steal your data while it’s in transit. Some businesses only allow their devices to connect to secured networks, and it’s a wise decision. It’s imperative that your business takes advantage of the best Wi-fi available, especially if there are multiple access points in the vicinity. Using your mobile phone’s hotspot can be a great solution on the road, though it can drain your battery quickly. A Mi-fi device can give you better performance and last for hours without draining your phone.
Don’t “Connect Automatically” When connecting to Wi-Fi, you will generally be given an option to connect automatically. This should be strictly reserved for secure networks you trust and will connect to frequently. If you’re not careful, you can give crooks free reign to set up a fake network with a name you’ve connected to in the past (Hilton, Starbucks, for example) and encourage you to connect for years to come no matter where you are. Don’t freely connect automatically, and if you’ve already committed this terrible security sin, now would be an excellent time to go into your wireless settings and forget all of those networks.
Integrate Security Solutions One of the best ways you can keep your devices secure while connected to an unknown wireless network is to make sure your operating system and software is always up to date with the latest patches and updates. Antivirus software and firewalls can also help your device recognize and eliminate threats before they damage your technology. Web blocking and spam filtering can prevent malicious websites and emails from taking advantage of weak points in your operating system. Adding in a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help provide an additional layer of security. While my primary recommendation is to ensure that you’re connected to a good, trusted Wi-Fi, for my clients I deploy multiple layers of protection to help keep them productive and secure even if using sketchy Wi-fi connections.
I recommend that you make it a priority to review your risks and options with your IT people. If you have any questions about Wi-fi security or would like some additional guidance in how to review this with your technical folks, feel free to email me; I’d be happy to help.