We all enjoy our personal electronics. Before coffee shops with free WiFi business people used to carry (drag?) around large cases full of samples and catalogs. Our notebooks and attaches shrunk in size to the half sized ‘day timers’.
Today, we carry our phones. Possibly a tablet. Maybe a full laptop. And we often choose where to have a meeting or lunch based upon the availability of WiFi internet access and how fast it is. But as our society becomes more and more dependent upon technology and information we need to consider other aspects of the risks of that ‘Free WiFi’ here sign.
Understand the T&C (Terms and Conditions) that govern the use of internet access and equipment someone else is paying for.
This may the T&C may be as simple as ‘We reserve the right to block access to sites we determine to be a negative impact on our business, brand or just don’t’ like.’ Others may be more business minded as the free access is set up and hosted by a marketing company looking to trade your name, e-mail address and maybe a phone for a little WiFi time. Be sure the T&C details how your contact info will be used. And to be safe, it may be a good idea to use an unimportant e-mail address for these sites. There are A LOT of places to get a free e-mail address from.
Choose which connection to use, carefully.
Ask an employee which WiFi connection to use. Some people will intentionally put up a bad hotspot to capture your data. Others will offer a bit of free wifi to gullible ‘netizens’ in order to reverse hack the connection, steal data, piggy-back into secure environments or to plant malicious software.
Use only secured applications.
Look for the green lock symbol in your browser that shows the browser has established a secured connection to the webserver. The way the HTTPS protocol works help ensure there is no snooping of the conversation between your browser and the webserver you have connected to.
Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
A VPN creates a private tunnel between your device and the firewall (or server) used by your employer. By connecting first to that VPN, your traffic are re-routed through dedicated, encrypted servers.
Secure your device for public use.
The steps and options for this will vary from device to device, but start by making sure your device is not sharing or openly advertising it’s presence (turn off Bluetooth when not needed). If the device has a firewall within it (modern Microsoft operating systems have firewalls as do many anti-virus suites) and it is enabled and configured for public environment. Keep the operating system and applications on the device updated and current to avoid breaches through exploits. Also, make sure the device ‘locks’ itself after a time of inactivity. If your attention is elsewhere, that is good time for someone to attempt to take the device. A password lock will at least slow them from getting in and may stop them, completely. And finally, if the device is business property make sure it can be managed, and if necessary wiped, remotely, to protect any data on it from being misused.
Keep in mind all of the above steps are meaningless if the user is not attentive to the security issues, threats and needs. Be aware of your surroundings and the networks you are connecting to.
Assistance for ensuring both a safe device and a safe public WiFi offering can be found by contacting Indy’s I.T. Department, today at 317-560-4443.