Who doesn’t love Wi-Fi?

It’s virtually everywhere, so you and your employees can work whenever and wherever you and they need to. It’s essentially free, so you don’t have to worry about exceeding cellular data caps. And it’s so convenient.

The problem is, sometimes Wi-Fi doesn’t love you back. If you or your people have ever had your device hacked while using one of those free and convenient Wi-Fi networks, you know exactly what we mean.

Unfortunately, Wi-Fi is as insecure as it is ubiquitous. Some networks are less dangerous than others, but any time you connect, whether it is at a coffee shop, hotel, airport, or that charming little bistro on the Via Simeto in Rome, there is a risk involved.

Colleen LeCount, Senior VP of Global Sales and Marketing for Mobolize, understands the problem from both sides. Her company develops software that makes Wi-Fi usage safe, but she has also been a victim of Wi-Fi hacking herself.

“The first time it happened to me, it was in Boise, Idaho, in a quaint little restaurant, and I thought, ‘how could it happen to me here?’” she recalls. “I ended up with a virus, and I was able to fix it, but it was an inconvenience.”

Most Wi-Fi hacking victims aren’t so lucky. Whether they are corporate employees or consumer users, the victims can face anything from ransomware downloads onto their devices to wholesale identity theft. And we all know what can happen when infected devices reconnect to the corporate network. Those are headaches that no company needs.

Online marketplace for hackers

It’s hard to get a handle on the scope of this branch of hacking. Google “Wi-Fi hacking” and you’ll find page after page of listings for all the tools you need to become a hacker yourself. When bad actors combine that convenient selection of hacking gear with the proliferation of Wi-Fi networks, the risk level pretty much goes off the charts.

LeCount says no corporate user should get on any open Wi-Fi network, and they need to be selective even when it’s a supposedly safer password-protected network.

“If employees need to use Wi-Fi, don’t enter personal information and be very careful about what sites you visit,” said LeCount. “Don’t go to sites where you have to log in. Basic browsing is about all I would suggest.”

Encryption as an option

There is a way to protect yourself and your users and use essentially any Wi-Fi network you want, anywhere and anytime.

The newly introduced Sprint Secure Wi-Fi is an app for smartphones and tablets that automatically turns itself on and off to protect mobile users when using any Wi-Fi, including public Wi-Fi networks and even corporate or home networks. By encrypting the traffic, it offers VPN-level protection for corporate users who don’t happen to be hooked to a VPN at the time.

The app also automatically turns itself off when the user returns to the cellular network or drops the Wi-Fi signal. Importantly, it can help protect users of password-protected Wi-Fi networks, such as the recent KRACK attacks, offering an option to activate additional protection and remembering it in the future if the user connects to that same password-protected network again.

How it works is that whenever a user connects to a Wi-Fi network, Sprint Secure Wi-Fi is automatically triggered. If the app detects that the Wi-Fi connection is open or unsecure, it automatically enables encryption for both web and application HTTP traffic between the device and the internet.

When the original HTTP traffic is decrypted, it is then forwarded to the app/web server. On the return path, the response traffic is encrypted and remains fully protected.

For corporate users, it’s useful to know that when the app detects that a company VPN has been invoked, it won’t activate, since the session is protected and the app would be redundant.

Sprint Secure Wi-Fi is available to businesses on a per employee basis for Sprint-subscribed Android or iOS-based smartphones or tablets.