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October 12, 2018. | Data security Infrastructure

Know your networks: What to look for when using wifi away from the office

Public wifi networks can provide easy and convenient access when away from the office. But they also come with risks.

For those who have to take their work out of the office, public wifi networks can be a godsend, with almost every coffee shop, airport, railway station and hotel offering some kind of connection, normally for free.

This means you can feasibly work remotely from anywhere in the world, however, there is a flipside to using public wifi connections – they may not be as secure as you think.

Wifi network

Firstly, there are two types of public wifi network – secured and unsecured. The former requires the user to log in before they can access the internet, either using a password provided by the owner of the network, creating an account and sometimes by paying a fee.

Conversely, unsecured networks provide anyone with access to the internet straight away, as soon as they connect to it.

Personal information

As public networks are less secure than a typical work or office connection, it is much easier for cyber criminals to take advantage of their easy access and steal your personal information from across the room.

Most public wifi networks are unsecured and unencrypted, which can leave users open to a so-called ‘Man in the Middle’ attack.

According to Penta partner, security giant Norton, this is one of the most common forms of attack today. When a computer connects to the internet, data is sent from point A (a computer) to point B (a service or website), and vulnerabilities can allow an attacker to get between these transmissions and ‘read’ them. Additionally, attackers can also buy software to access what other people are viewing online, including the web pages web pages being viewed, any information you have given to those sites and capturing vital log-in data.

Hotspot

More alarmingly, hackers can also set up bogus wifi networks which look and feel like the public hotspot you should be connected to. When users connect to these they basically hand over all their data to the pretend network, giving the attacker all of your sensitive information.

Find out more

Do’s and don’ts of public wifi
Security giant provides tips on getting connected
Norton

Why hackers lovepublic wifi
Video breaks down the key threats of using public networks
The Economic Times

Risks of using public networks
EU agency outlines flaws in public wifi networks
Europol

To avoid falling foul of this trick, if you are in any doubt about which network you should connect to, contact the store owner, hotel receptionist or other service provider before connecting.

We also advise against using online banking programs and checking sensitive email accounts while using a public wifi network. Additionally, we strongly suggest you avoid shopping using a public connection as this will require you to log-in to retailers and provide sensitive information.

Encypted

If you do need to access sensitive documents or accounts while out and about, we suggest using your mobile phone to create a wifi hotspot using your smartphone’s mobile data as 4G connections are encrypted and no-one else will know your hotspot’s password, meaning they cannot hijack your data.

Furthermore, you can beef up your online security and avoid leaving traces of activity when you surf using a Virtual Private Network, such as what Penta offers its clients.

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