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Public Wi-Fi Wisdom

Guidance for using public Wi-Fi while protecting your business

Public Wi-Fi networks are often not secure, however, improvements in the use of encryption have made them better. Home networks and mobile or personal hot-spots (like those offered by many wireless carriers via your mobile phone) are the preferred way to connect to a corporate network, but we understand that at times public Wi-Fi may be the only option. Here are some guidelines for using it with security in mind.

  • Patch and Update: Ensure that your device’s operating system, browser, and any other apps you will be using are up-to-date. Many websites use encrypted connections (your browser will warn you if a site does not), which reduces your risk.
  • Trust and Verify: Verify the name of the Wi-Fi service you want to use. Be wary of “rogue” Wi-Fi hotspots (often hijacking the name of a business you might trust) which may attempt to steal your login credentials.  
  • Use a VPN if Required: A Virtual Private Network (VPN) encrypts communications between your device and another network. The vast majority of websites use encryption, reducing the need for a VPN. If your company requires it, follow their directions on how to install, configure, and use it while you are away from the office.
  • Consider Additional Encryption: If your work involves sensitive data that requires extreme protection, consider the use of a specialized secure messaging system such as Wickr or Signal.

Be Aware: Your network connection may be secure but that person at the table next to you who keeps looking at your screen (“shoulder surfing”) is a potential threat as well. Take care to not write down or expose your passwords. Also remember to physically protect your devices. Don’t leave them unattended. Traditional crime tactics are still alive and well.

More Questions?

If you have more specific questions about VPNs or use of public Wi-Fi, check out the GCA Cybersecurity Toolkit for Small Business and join us in our Community Forum, in the Access The Office Safely channel to chat with other users and experts. 

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