Connecting to a free local WiFi network may seem like a safe and reliable way of working, but very few are aware of the potential risks that can arise.
Tom Blumsom, account manager at Lister Unified Communications offers some top tips below to help you, your staff and your company keep sensitive data secure.
“Here is one scenario,” he says, “It’s Wednesday afternoon, you’ve decided to work out of your favourite coffee shop, using some free Wi-Fi. You plan to catch up on a few tasks while enjoying the good weather.
“This is a typical scenario for many of us, but you might be unaware of some threats lurking in the background on public Wi-Fi.
“While you enjoy your expresso and login to your company CRM, check your email you should be aware of the potential threats.”
Free (public) Wi-Fi is common and can be found in places such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, airports, hotels and shops. Every action that requires a login from email to online banking could be potentially risky on public Wi-Fi.
“What’s the big deal?,” Mr Blumsom adds, “Many of these Wi-Fi networks have lax or non-existent security which puts you and your information at risk. Many do not have any form of encryption set up leaving the users vulnerable.”
Some of these potential threats include:
Man-in-the Middle (MitM) attacks – This is a very common security risk and is essentially eavesdropping. When your device (laptop, tablet, smartphone) connects to the internet data is sent and vulnerabilities can allow a hacker to get in between your device and a website/system/service. They can “read” these transmissions and so what you thought was secure and private isn’t.
Snooping and sniffing – This is an eavesdropping attack allowing a theft of information as it is transmitted over a network by a computer, smartphone, or another connected device. The attack takes advantage of unsecured network communications to access data as it is being sent or received by its user. This could be things like which web pages you have visited, what information you entered on these pages and even login credentials.
Malicious hotspots – These are rogue Wi-Fi networks set up to trick victims into connecting and using free Wi-Fi. They often have normal names such as “Free_Cafe_Wifi” or “Supermarket Wi-Fi”. You connect thinking it is a legitimate network and unwittingly give access and information to cyber criminals. This is particularly dangerous when on holiday and are unaware of where the local safe Wi-Fi might
But Tom Blumsom says: “Its not all doom and gloom. You can take several steps to help increase your safety so here are some do’s and don’ts.”
These key steps include: