How to Protect Yourself On Public WiFi

If you or your people work away from the office, chances are you’ve used public WiFi, free wireless access to the internet. Whether it’s a favorite coffee house, a hotspot provided by a service provider like Comcast or AT&T, or a municipal wireless network, using available WiFi is a great alternative to chewing through your expensive cellular data.

Unfortunately, the same services that offer free and easy internet access to you and your employees also give the same access to the bad guys. For a hacker, public WiFi presents a cornucopia of personal information like passwords, account numbers, and credit card numbers. Without proper precautions, using public WiFi could be the source of devastating losses for your New Jersey business, especially if employees are sharing files and uploading or downloading sensitive data.

The good news is that you and your team can take measures that will greatly increase the security of your data.  Here are a few ideas:

  1. Turn off network sharing when connected to public WiFi. Network sharing makes work much more efficient in the office or at home. It lets computers on the same network talk to each other, share tasks, and more. However, on a public WiFi network, it’s like leaving your front door wide open. Turn off that option before you connect in public.
  2. Turn on your software firewall. Firewalls keep bad things (ransomware, malware and hackers) out of your computer. Almost all new devices come with some kind of built-in firewall. These are frequently disabled in the office so they don’t interfere with the business network’s hardware firewall, which is far more robust. However, when connected to a public WiFi network, turn it back on to protect your data.
  3. Make sure everything is encrypted. The network should be WPA2-encrypted (most wireless devices identify the encryption level of available networks so check that out when you log on). Also, make sure the websites you visit are SSL-encrypted. Just look at the address bar in your browser; SSL-encrypted sites begin with “https,” whereas non-encrypted sites begin with “http.”  That extra “s” at the end stands for “Secure.”
  4. Use a VPN. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the single best way to ensure security while you’re using a public network. A VPN is like establishing a secure tunnel through the internet.  No one can enter the tunnel without proper credentials, so all the data transmitted through it is safe. Your managed IT services provider can explain more about VPNs, how they work, and how to set them up for your users to maintain better data protection.
  5. Work with your IT consultant to keep the ship tight. Whether you provide laptops and cell phones to your employees or you allow employees to use their own devices (BYOD), certain things need to happen to keep your business data secure on an ongoing basis. You need to stay current on all patches and updates. You need to have effective antivirus and antispyware installed. You may want to set up two-factor authentication for sensitive operations. The best person to help set up and maintain these measures is an IT professional, like IND Corporation. We work with New Jersey small and medium-sized businesses to help their computing networks work most efficiently and securely.

Public WiFi offers a great opportunity for you and your team to stay productive when you’re out of the office. While there are significant risks involved, a few simple steps can protect your business data, even in a BYOD environment. A small investment in developing good policies, a little bit of training, and the right software tools can yield huge dividends in terms of protected data and mitigated losses. Let’s talk about your needs—both on premise and off site—to keep your NJ company’s computing, file sharing, emails and more running as expected, monitored 24/7, and much more. Contact IND Corporation at (973) 400-4227 to discuss your managed IT services needs.