Keeping up-to-date with emails and social media is an essential part of running a business. When there is no access from our phones, or a faster connection is needed, we switch to WiFi. In many cases, this will be a public WiFi network rather than a private one. Once you are connected the risks of having your data intercepted increases, but by following a few simple rules, you can keep yourself secure.
Risks from public WiFi
It may be a fake network
If you are in, for example, GoodCoffeeFromUs and there is a network called GoodCoffeeFromUs-WiFi-Free the natural assumption is that this will be run by the shop. In many cases, it will be valid, but there is no way of being sure. Anyone can set up and name a network. Once connected all traffic can be viewed, including logins and passwords. Or they could direct you to a fake page when you try to access a site such as BBC News, this fake page can download malware and infect your device.
Criminals may be viewing traffic
Some public WiFi networks are not encrypted. Once you are using it a criminal can use a ‘Network Sniffer’ to capture what you are viewing and entering. Even if the network is encrypted (the standard method is WPA2-PSK) and you have to login you may not be secure as WPA2-PSK uses a pre-shared key. Anyone that is logged shares the same key and could monitor traffic.
Still not convinced of the risks – watch this video
In July 2015, an experiment showed how to get personal data using public WiFi.
Public WIFi Good practice to keep yourself safe
- Confirm the legitimacy of a WiFi network before connecting to it. If there are multiple access points with similar names, ask a member of staff which one to use.
- Ideally, only use public WiFi to browse websites that do not require you to login. If you do need to access sensitive data or enter login credentials then only use websites when the URL starts with HTTPS rather than HTTP. An example of this is https://www.facebook.com/.
- Never install software using public WiFi as it could introduce malware. A common attack is to inform the user that an outdated version of Flash is being used and then redirect them to a fake Adobe website that will install malware instead of the real software.
- Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN creates a tunnel between your device and a third-party server. All data passing through the tunnel is encrypted and therefore hidden from both the WiFi provider and anyone trying to sniff the network. There are several different VPN providers. Search for ‘VPN reviews’ to see which ones are recommended. You can usually trial them to see which works best for you before deciding which one to pay for. The main downside to VPNs is that browsing is usually slightly slower, but the extra security is worth it. There is also the risk that the VPN provider gets hacked, but this is less likely than using an insecure WiFi network
- Have a security policy for staff that explains why you need to be careful when using public WiFi, and the steps required to be safe.
Contact us for more information on how to keep your information secure.