Security Tips for Using Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi hotspots are, on the surface, great for a mobile workforce, allowing people to work in numerous places, from coffee shops to airports. But this increased mobility comes with a serious risk.

Setting up a fraudulent Wi-Fi hotspot is all-to easy for criminals and can allow them to see and steal data from your computer. Say, for instance, you like to work at your local Panera. As shown in the diagram below, a criminal could set up a Wi-Fi hotspot called "Panera Bread Wi-Fi" to be available to customers alongside the legitimite hotspot provided by the store. If you connect to the wrong one, you put your data at risk.


So, what's a mobile worker to do? Here are a few tips:

  1. Check with the staff of the establishment to make sure public Wi-Fi is offered, and confirm the exact name of the hotspot.
  2. Employ encrypted means of accessing data over the internet (such as VPNs) whenever possible.
  3. Avoid accessing extremely sensitive data in public places.
  4. Employ your own mobile hotspot (e.g. with your iPhone) whenever possible.