Public Wi-Fi: Proceed with Caution

In today's fast-paced, hi-tech world, wi-fi has become a commodity. Starbucks, Panera Bread, local cafe's, even your local McDonald's has free wi-fi available for its patrons. It's very convenient, however you could be opening yourself up to online ID theft and security breaches if you aren't careful. Internet snoopers are getting smarter and sneakier in their "line of work" - snooping, fraudulent charges, identify theft and scamming.

But, despite the ever-prevalant risks, there are some things you can do to minimize your subjection to online hacks and fraud.

Turn off File Sharing

Be sure to turn off the sharing of files and folders with other computers on a network when you are using a public network. When on a trusted network again, you will have to manually turn the sharing feature on again.

Don't automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks

How convenient is it to have your mobile devices automatically connect to your home or work network or even your favorite coffee shop? Super convenient, right? But this convenience can lead to issues when you are traveling to various locations you don't frequent.

Wi-fi hotspot names are often generic and legitimate looking, like "Coffee Shop" or "Main St Wi-Fi" or "Restaurant Wi-Fi". And a password-protected hotspot may look even more legit ... Get the password from the barista and voila, wi-fi, right? Well since anyone can obtain the public wi-fi password from the employees behind the counter, login to the wi-fi and be snooping on your device, be sitting right next to you and you not even know it. Freaky!

To protect yourself from snoopers in this situation, either use your cellular connection (which is more secure than wi-fi), purchase a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or purchase your own Wi-Fi hotspot service, such as AT&T Mobile Hotspot or Verizon's MiFi. Keep in mind though with personal hotspots, you are using your data or Share Everything plan.

Be smart about mobile banking and shopping

It's easy to order that new pair of shoes you really want from many online retailers. It's a simple one click job (dangerous to your credit card funds!). These online retailers keep your contact information, credit card numbers, CCV/CVV codes and passwords stored in their database or in the app itself. Yes, it's convenient but it opens you up to a lot of risk.

Even mobile banking is dangerous because your logins, passwords and banking account numbers are accessible through your mobile device. Some banking institutions have extra security for mobile users, such as Bank of America's SafePass program, which sends a text message with a 6-digit code to authorize a transaction. The code expires after it is used once.

To stay the safest, wait until you are on a network connected computer (not wi-fi) to do your banking and shopping. If you must bank or shop on your mobile device, use your cellular connection instead of wi-fi as it is a more secure connection.

Use up-to-date security software

Your home computer and laptop should have the same anti-virus, anti-spyware and firewall protection. Anti-virus software such as AVG or Norton will protect both your home computer and laptop from unauthorized snooping, fraudulent links and allow you to surf and download safely.

There are also a few apps that protect your mobile device, such as AVG Mobile Security, that warn you when you are on an unsecured Wi-Fi network, help you avoid malicious websites and lock apps individually to prevent them from being accessed by others.

LITERALLY look over your shoulder

It's called Shoulder Surfing and, yes, it is an old tactic, but still a very potent one. It's not very high-tech and it's easy to do when everyone is face to face with their mobile devices all the time and are often oblivious to those lurking behind them. Keep those around you in check (it's okay to be a little paranoid!) and use a privacy screen on your device.

And be sure to always remember things little tidbits of tech knowledge:

  • With business-related mobile working, be EXTRA careful for legal reasons!
  • Back up your important files on a secured, Cloud-based service
  • Use strong passwords that have no ties to personal information like a birth date or pet's name
  • Turn off your wireless capability on your mobile device when you are not using it

At Vantage Point, we are always researching the newest security technologies and keeping up with the newest "threat-tactics" and "security breaches" - it's our JOB! If you have questions regarding wi-fi security or working on-the-go, contact the Sales Team at Vantage Point Solutions Group.