Dangers of Public Wi-fi: Free Wi-Fi Could Endanger Business

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By Bill Minahan   |   February 4, 2020   |   1 Comment

Public Wi-Fi Risks of 2020    

Connecting to free, insecure, public Wi-Fi can endanger you and your business. Yet, it happens all the time. Unfortunately, even in 2020, there is a knowledge gap surrounding the risks of public Wi-Fi, especially among working professionals.

Many employees, as well as executives, do not understand the dangers of connecting to public Wi-Fi.

In 2020, public Wi-Fi is available almost everywhere in the U.S.: local coffee shops, airports, hotels, venues, etc. In an age where Americans spend roughly 5.4 hours a day on their phones, free Wi-Fi is like gold, except it can be extremely dangerous to your company.

Often, employees are remotely checking and responding to business emails, accessing corporate data, and more on public Wi-Fi.

When you connect to unencrypted and untrusted networks it leaves you vulnerable to potential attacks. Anyone can see what sites you are visiting, what you are doing, and everything you are typing.

Business Risks of Public Wi-Fi    

dangers of public wifi

Hackers can easily and inexpensively position themselves between you and your hotspot or create a fake Wi-Fi connection. Whether you know it or not, your device connects to the hotspot with the strongest signal.

All a hacker must do is use a device called a Wi-Fi Pineapple, which emits a very strong signal and allows hackers to pose as a legitimate hotspot. When you connect to public Wi-Fi, you can easily connect to a spoof network that only appears to be Starbucks or the Marriot.

It is extremely easy, inexpensive, and effective for hackers to pose as an establishment’s legitimate Wi-Fi to trick users into divulging company or financial data.

Unfortunately, it is also very easy and common for a hacker to position themselves in between you and your hotspot when you are connected to public Wi-Fi.

In short, when you connect to an insecure Wi-Fi source, a hacker can access every bit of information you send out including emails, phone numbers, payment information, business data, etc.

Hackers can monitor, intercept, and even alter your correspondence. Furthermore, from this position, hackers can install malware on your devices. If you bring that device back to the office, then you could compromise your company’s entire network.

Even if you do not believe the data you are accessing on public Wi-Fi is overly sensitive, the content and contacts on your device could be exactly what a hacker is looking for to infiltrate your network.

As a result, you should never connect to free, insecure, public Wi-Fi while accessing confidential, sensitive, or private information.

How to Stay Safe on Public Wi-Fi

Unfortunately, for most working professionals in 2020, not responding to work emails and being completely unreachable is not an option.

Our devices and the remote access they offer is great for productivity, communication, and conducting business.

As a result, if you must connect to public Wi-Fi or access corporate data remotely, here is how to do it safely:

  • Use encryption & web content filtering

    • By using encryption, your correspondence and other sensitive data can’t be monitored. However, it isn’t bullet-proof, as encryption can be broken. Therefore, it’s best paired with web content filtering. Web content filtering will stop your device from accessing any page pretending to be a legitimate page. For example, if you are accessing your online banking, web content filtering will ensure you don’t get tricked into entering your personal data on to a spoof page that is only pretending to be your login page.
  • Enable multifactor authentication wherever you can

    • By enabling multifactor authentication (MFA), even if a hacker gains access to your password, it won’t be enough to compromise your accounts or your corporate data. With multifactor authentication, your password is only one piece of the puzzle. MFA helps reduce the dangers of public Wi-Fi.
  • Verify Wi-Fi details with the establishment

    • If you can, always verify with the establishment which Wi-Fi belongs to them. This can save you from accidentally connecting to a hacker’s spoof hotspot.
  • Use a VPN if you or your employees are frequent travelers

    • If you or your employees frequently access corporate data remotely, it’s time to look into a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN extends a private network across a public network and enables users to send and receive data securely. If you are accessing confidential customer, employee, or financial data remotely, then a VPN is a must.
  • Train your employees to remain vigilant online

    • Finally, train your employees about the dangers of public Wi-Fi. They should be aware of everything contained in this article regarding the dangers of public Wi-Fi (and ideally, more) so that they can act cautiously and access data securely online. Cyber security awareness training is a must if you want your employees to act in the company’s best interest online.

Cyber Security Awareness Training

There are a growing number of threats online that put your business at risk. To learn more about the dangers of public Wi-Fi and other internet threats, enroll in a cyber security awareness training program.

Cyber security awareness training allows you to make data-driven decisions around your employees and your cyber security.

Training is the first step towards creating a cyber aware workforce.

Find out more about aNetwork’s cyber security awareness training here.

Download our Cyber Awareness 2020 eBook

Otherwise, you can schedule a meeting with one of our cyber security analysts. Additionally, you can call us directly at 855-459-6600.

Finally, you can always find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.


vurtil opmer

February 28, 2020 | 2:58 am

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