For small and mid-size businesses (SMB) with highly mobile workers, Wi-Fi access is a necessity. A necessity with a dark side.

It is available almost everywhere, rarely costs you anything, and it’s incredibly convenient. And best of all, it enables your employees to work from almost anywhere: airports, coffee shops, hotels, fast-food restaurants, shopping centers, you name it.

In the 20 years since it was invented, it has grown to the point that there are now approximately nine billion Wi-Fi devices in use. Wi-Fi may not be fully ubiquitous, but it’s close.

Unfortunately, accessing a convenient Wi-Fi network doesn’t always have a happy ending, especially for SMBs.

There are significant security risks in using free public Wi-Fi networks. And believe it or not, password protected WI-FI networks pose a threat as well. While some may appear less dangerous than others, you take a chance every time you connect.

As easy as it is for your employees to find handy Wi-Fi to log on to, it’s equally simple for hackers to gain access to your phones, tablets and laptops through that same network. Once they have access to your device, the skies the limit. They can easily steal passwords and credit card information or they can use your employees’ phones to infiltrate your network and gain access to sensitive company data.

And if a network intrusion is successful, the damage can threaten the very existence of the company itself. According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, more than 70 percent of cyber-attacks target small and mid-size businesses who often think they are too small to target. Sixty percent of those companies will go out of business within six months due to that data breach. Why? Because a cyber-attack can result in revenue loss, disruption of your operations, loss of vital company data and intellectual property, damaged customer relationships, and often costly legal fees.

Today, most cyber-attacks are aimed at mobile devices, and specifically Wi-Fi network users because of the weaknesses in security that surround these networks. Also, a frequent hacker technique – called “man in the middle” – sets up a spoofed network that a Wi-Fi user can get tricked into using when they think they are using the local coffee shop’s network, for instance.

This type of hacking technique can track every keystroke, every password, every move you make. It’s like opening up your wallet or purse to a stranger and asking them to look through it.

But even with legitimate, non-spoofed, and ostensibly secure Wi-Fi networks, there are inherent issues when it comes to busy mobile users. These users tend to be less likely to pay close attention to email messages or websites, and their smaller screens can make it harder to catch something suspicious.

As a result, there is a greater chance that a user will click on a bogus website, unknowingly download a bad file, or be taken in by a phishing scam.

The tools that a hacker needs to take advantage of Wi-Fi users are inexpensive and readily available online. The only way to protect yourself is to fortify your own defenses and make sure that you and your employees are safe when using all Wi-Fi networks.

But not to worry. There are options available that will allow you and your mobile employees to continue to take advantage of all that easily available Wi-Fi out there. Sprint Secure Wi-Fi for smartphones, laptops and tablets, gives your employees the Wi-Fi security they need on unprotected public and password protected Wi-Fi hotspots with the only Mobile Smart VPN in the market.

The app works through encryption, offering virtual private network (VPN)-style protection for any user. It even provides added protection for users of password-protected Wi-Fi networks and remembers the networks that the user has connected to.

Basically, whenever a user connects to a Wi-Fi network, it triggers Sprint Secure Wi-Fi. If the app senses that the connection is an open or unsecure one, it automatically enables encryption for both web and application traffic between the device and the internet.

With “set-and-forget“ Wi-Fi protection, Sprint Secure Wi-Fi automatically encrypts data when you or your employees connect to any Wi-Fi network via any mobile device. And if your company has a VPN, the app knows not to activate itself if that VPN is in use, since the communication session is already protected.