You can’t beat the convenience of Wi-Fi networks. For mobile users, it makes it possible to get work done virtually anywhere. But unless you can be assured that your connections are secure, the risks of Wi-Fi networks can easily outweigh their convenience.
For a small to mid-sized business that uses Wi-Fi in its company offices, users may start to take for granted the level of security that business-grade secure Wi-Fi offers. They trust the office network, but they can be lulled into complacency when they are mobile and want to connect their smartphone, tablet or laptop to public Wi-Fi.
Public Wi-Fi can be scary business
Let’s take a look at the real security risks involved in using those oh-so-convenient free public Wi-Fi networks. This includes password-protected networks as well. Most assume these private network options are secure. But there is still a risk.
Hackers are extremely skilled at breaking into phones, tablets, and laptops via Wi-Fi networks. And once they get into a device, your troubles really begin. They can use that access as the first step in a journey that can take them deep into your network, where they can steal data, plant malware, and generally cause mayhem in your operations.
Serious intrusions can be crippling, financially and otherwise, to a small to mid-sized business. It is those businesses that are now the targets of more than half of the cyber-attacks that occur1. And the focus of most attacks is the mobile device, particularly those that are connected to Wi-Fi.
There are inherent security weaknesses in public Wi-Fi networks, and hackers can take advantage of that by setting up “man in the middle” traps, establishing a spoofed network that a Wi-Fi user can get tricked into using when they think they are on the legitimate network. Connect to the hacker’s bogus network and you open yourself to having every keystroke, every password, and every move you make tracked.
But users can be vulnerable even when using otherwise safe public Wi-Fi networks. An email phishing attack – the starting point for 95 percent of data breaches2 – is more likely to entrap a mobile phone user. Why? Because most mobile users are dealing with a smaller screen, are frequently distracted due to multitasking, and because of the screen size they can’t see a URL bar on that might alert them to something suspicious.
The best defense
The dangers of public Wi-Fi may seem daunting, but the good news is there are defenses available to protect your users and your company.
One such solution is Sprint Secure Wi-Fi, the only Mobile Smart VPN (virtual private network) on the market for smartphones, laptops and tablets. It provides users the wireless security they need on unprotected public and password-protected Wi-Fi hotspots.
The app uses encryption, offering VPN-level protection for any user on any Wi-Fi network, enhancing protection even for those password-protected networks and remembering the networks the user has connected to.
Once enabled, whenever a user connects to a Wi-Fi network, Sprint Secure Wi-Fi is launched. If the app determines that the connection is open or unsecured, it automatically enables encryption for both web and application traffic between the device and the internet.
Its “set-and-forget“ protection provides automatic Wi-Fi encryption when you or your users connect to any Wi-Fi network via any mobile device.
If your company has a VPN, the app is intelligent enough to know it doesn’t need to activate secure Wi-Fi while that VPN is in use, since the communication session is already protected.
More than 70 percent of users connect to unsecured public Wi-Fi every week, with the typical smartphone user accessing it many times per week. This is especially true for mobile business users, who use their smartphones and tablets while on the road at hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, and other places.
Public Wi-Fi is an extremely convenient productivity booster. But whether it’s public or private, you need to make sure you are aware of the risks and take the proper steps to protect your business and your employees’ mobile devices from putting your network and data at risk.
2Security Affairs, 2015