The convenience of Wi-Fi just about everywhere makes working, checking social media, or researching your next project super easy. It’s free, and doesn’t eat into your cellular data plan. What’s not to like! Unfortunately, this too is not without significant risks.
In this article, we’ll provide some basic tips you can use to keep your devices and data secure while traveling, working at the coffee shop, or setting up your Wi-Fi at home.
On the Road
Your device, whether laptop or computer, might automatically connect to any available network unless set up otherwise. Check your device settings to ensure you have to manually approve any new connections.
Check your Hotspot
“Starbucks Free” or “STARBUCKS-GUEST”? Which hotspot was set up by the establishment for their guests to use and which one is an imposter trying to swipe whatever information they can get. Not sure? Ask the staff which hotspot is legitimate and connect to that one only.
Beware of Guest WiFi
As a courtesy, many organizations provide Guest Wi-Fi access to their patrons or clients, allowing them access to the internet while keeping their main Wi-Fi network separate and secure. Treat these as a public Wi-Fi hotspot and avoid any transactions involving sensitive or secure information (e.g. banking information, credit card transactions).
HTTP vs HTTPS
Planning to surf websites while connected to public Wi-Fi? Be sure there’s an “https” at the beginning of the web address on any site you visit. This indicates information transmitted will be encrypted with protocols that make it nearly impossible to untangle.
If you travel significantly and rely heavily on public Wi-Fi connections, use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN creates a virtual “tunnel” that shields all activity and encrypts data transmitted and received through it. This is the best form of security on a public network. Many employers set this up for their employees to use while away from the office. They’re also available to individuals to purchase through 3rd party providers.
When all else fails, go cellular
Using up data against your plan can be a drag, but it’s far more secure than any public Wi-Fi. If a VPN isn’t available to you, this might be the next best method to transmit sensitive information on a public network.
Wi-Fi everywhere is convenient, but don’t be lulled into letting your guard down. Assume everything exchanged over a public Wi-Fi network is visible by everyone nearby!
Home Sweet Home
When setting up your home Wi-Fi, there may be several options available for encryption. Normally, this is turned off to aid in set up, so make setting up encryption your first step. Currently, the best encryption protocol is WPA2-Personal (aka WPA2-PSK). Select that one right away and ignore the rest.
Change the Name
Routers come out of the box with a default name from the manufacturer (e.g. Linksys02430). This is known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID). This is the name that shows up when your device searches and locates available networks. Change it to something memorable to you and your family, but not immediately identifiable as belonging you.
You might also consider turning off the option to broadcast your SSID. Your network will no longer show up on the list of available networks, which means anyone joining your network will have to know the exact name and type it in their device in order to log in. Just don’t forget what you named it - keep it memorable, but not obvious (e.g. don’t use your family name).
Change the Default Password
Often routers come with the default administrator password “admin” or something just as easy to guess. Change the password to something you’ll remember, using good password practices. One of the major cyberattacks over the past year exploited devices with their original admin passwords unchanged!
If you run a small-to-medium sized business in the Detroit or Grand Rapids area, and you’re not sure how best to set up your own WiFi, or have other questions regarding your technology, give us a call today to get in touch with one of our experienced technical experts.