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Is Public WiFi Safe for Work Computers? Blog Feature
Accent Computer Solutions

By: Accent Computer Solutions on August 28th, 2017

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Is Public WiFi Safe for Work Computers?

Cyber Security

We are always on the go, and to support our need for speed habit, coffee shops, hotels, and even gas stations now have WiFi.

Unfortunately, that airport WiFi isn't nearly as secure as you'd like to think it is. I know what you're thinking. But I use passwords. And passwords, while a great first step, don't change the fact that you are sharing a network with A LOT of people.

Sharing a network with the great unknown means your data is at high risk. We here at Accent Computer Solutions, Inc. monitor the safety of over 150 client networks daily, nearly all of which have a mix of in-office and remote employees.

For the Road Warriors out there, here’s how you can secure your company’s data.

Choose Your Network with Caution

Do yourself and your company a favor: Ask which WiFi belongs to the hotel, coffee shop etc., before you select the network.

Even free WiFi at the public library is a place for someone to intercept your data. Sometimes hackers set up a "man-in-the-middle attack.” They create a false WiFi network that looks legitimate.   

Example: Starbucks offers free WiFi. Let’s say their WiFi network is called “Starbucks WiFi.” A hacker is in Starbucks has created a network called “FREE Starbucks WiFi.”  It reads like an authentic source, but it’s not.

Simply ask someone, anyone, for the right wireless network to avoid any funny business.

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

These three letters are going to be your life vest through the dark waters for free public WiFi. Allow me to introduce VPN.

VPN stands for virtual private network, and it's one of the best ways to keep your computer and network safe.

Here’s what it does: Blocks intruders on the network from having access to your device by encrypting the traffic. Think of it as a tangled web. The thief could try to untangle it, but it would take longer than your WiFi session. Besides, there are plenty of victims without VPN, so they won't bother. 

This should be a security feature your IT department has implemented. Some networks won’t even allow outside access without a VPN enabled. If this isn’t standard protocol at your office, talk to your IT support team about your options right away.

In the meantime, there are other options. There are some free VPN applications. Most of them, however, have a data limit. Because of those data limits, they are meant for fast or casual WiFi users. Think: checking email or status update messages. These services are too limited and are not recommended for business use.

That being said, get on top of this with your IT team. There are many VPN services -- ask them for their opinion and have it installed on ALL mobile devices, including laptops, tablets, and phones.

Quick Daily Internet Security Tips Everyone Can Do

Check for Padlocks and HTTPS

Check for the padlock symbol next to the web address in your browser. This is a sign that you’re running in secure mode. There is an encryption running between your computer and the website.  

Don't forget your mobile device. Unless the app explicitly states it’s a secure transaction, it's probably not. In these circumstances, use your browser to log in. Only continue this process if there's an HTTPS connection in the website's address.

Keep Your Software Up to Date

I know it seems like every app and device is continuously annoying you to "update." But these updates usually come with things like security patches. Which are extra layers of free security.

Be cautious, however, about when you allow updates to happen. You should only agree to updates on WiFi you trust - like at home or in your office. Otherwise, this "update" might be malware in disguise. (Sneaky, sneaky)

Log Off and Forget the Free WiFi Network

This might be one of the more basic, but often overlooked, ways to keep safe on the go. When you're done using the free network, log out of anything you opened and “Forget” the network.

This is important because it keeps your device from automatically connecting to the network in the future. Most, if not all, devices have a "Connect Automatically" setting.  You can and SHOULD turn this off. We strongly suggest that you do that in general, but most certainly while you are traveling or working remotely.

Free WiFi, while wonderful, is really like the “Wild Wild West” for your network. Keep safe by following these tips and work with your IT provider to ensure that the right process is being followed by everyone at your company.

Tech Alert

Things change rapidly in the world of tech. We'll keep your business up-to-date on the latest information technology news so you can stay in the know

Related: The Wi-Fi Pineapple and Small Business


About Accent Computer Solutions

Accent Computer Solutions, Inc. is a managed IT services and IT support provider, serving businesses with 30-500 employees throughout Southern California. The company is headquartered in Rancho Cucamonga, California, with IT professionals strategically located throughout San Bernardino, Riverside, Los Angeles, and Orange Counties, as well as Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana.

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