The idea of taking work on the go is appealing to many employees who simply need to get out of the office and enjoy a change of scenery sometimes. It’s a great way to spark creativity and improve productivity. But there are some very real risks to consider when allowing employees to access public WiFi for work.
What’s the Big Deal about WiFi?
The problem is that public access WiFi networks are notoriously unsecure networks. The data transmitted on mobile devices and laptops via WiFi access are all susceptible to being seen by others.
In fact, there are those who actively prey upon people accessing the Internet through WiFi in common access areas like coffee shops, college campuses, hotels, libraries, fast food restaurants, and even airports where employees might be trying to turn in reports or access data before taking their flights.
How Can Employees Take Advantage of Public WiFi Safely?
Of course, there are practices and policies your business can adopt that will help limit your risks or exposure when it comes to allowing employees access to business networks via WiFi, including the following.
Never assume WiFi networks are secure. According to theFederal Trade Commission (FTC), hot spots that do not require WPA or WPA2 passwords are not likely to be secure networks. This makes them unsafe for employees to use because others can “see” what they are sending if they have the right tools.
Secure passwords. It’s easy for hackers to get keylogging programs onto computers these days. These programs allow hackers to grab passwords as they are being typed. Programs like LastPass allow you to store all passwords without typing them in so that hackers can’t grab them and employees don’t have to worry about remembering them. More importantly, these programs can provide secure passwords that are much better than default passwords employees often turn to.
Instruct employees to report lost or stolen equipment immediately. No matter how innocent it seems, lost or stolen devices render the entire network vulnerable – especially if the theft was a targeted theft. Savvy IT personnel can track devices if they are turned on or used in the aftermath of the event. Also consider programs that swipe the memory of devices that are stolen in order to protect business interests.
Require lock codes on all business computers and mobile devices. This is a matter of protecting business interests as well as personal information employees may have accessed or installed on these computers. Lock codes are an added layer of protection for the business and your employees.
It takes no time at all for things to go wrong when accessing public WiFi for work. It only takes a few keystrokes for someone to cause irrevocable injury to your business and your image. The right practices and policies, though, can save your business a great deal of pain.
Of course, despite your best efforts, hackers can, occasionally circumvent even the most careful of security measures. That’s why it’s so important to invest in cyber liability insurance as yet another layer of protection.