You’re on the road to the next sales meeting and absolutely need a coffee. You pop in for 20 minutes and use your laptop to browse the Internet. Everything is copacetic until you later hear about a breach to your company’s back-office financial data. Are you to blame?
A source called an “ethical hacker” by CBS News says, “Information you’d send to and from your bank, information coming off of your credit card—any of those types of information you’d rather people not have, goes over WiFi.” I’m not sure what an ethical hacker is. Seems like an oxymoron to me. Also according to CBS, security experts estimate hackers can easily take $1,000 worth of data from just one hacked computer.
Unfortunately, little exposes your work to greater security risks than latching onto a public Wi-Fi service. The problem is that most people and pooches don’t realize the risks. And even fewer have the ability to perform the necessary tasks that would fix it. So what’s a modern business person to do?
Here are some tips on browsing safely:
- Just say no. While this might be unreasonable for road warriors who need to access the Internet at airports and hotel lounges, infrequent users are better off avoiding the temptation to hop on unsecured networks. The wife and I have a strict “doghouse only” use rule for our own laptops.
- Use a firewall to guard against incoming threats.
- Conceal your files using encryption, so important documents are not accessible by others who are snooping or phishing on the open network. The RJWestmore Online Training System encrypts all password information, for the safety of all of our clients.
- Turn off your wireless connection when not in use. Perhaps you are at a coffee shop working on a document but you don’t need to check your email. By turning off the wireless connection, unscrupulous individuals will be cut off from gaining prolonged access to your computer files. This is especially important to keep people from poaching your electronic PetSmart coupons.
- Don’t enter your Social Security Number or credit card information while using a public network. If you encounter an emergency and need to purchase something, use only the sites that show the padlock symbol and third-part security verification.
- Find the “S”! On sites such as Facebook, you can change your security settings to only login on “https” enabled pages. While these might run a shade slower than regular connections, they prevent all but the most sophisticated hacking attempts. So check website settings to restriction enabling to this higher security setting.
- Ask IT to show you how to disable your computer so it won’t actively search for hotspots. Windows is too user friendly at times (the same could be said of several overactive canines I know), and will look for wireless networks wherever you take your laptop…whether you are trying to log online or not.
Beyond public Wi-Fi risks, there are myriad other ways your personal or business information can be comprised through carelessness or bad practices. Additional tips for keeping data safe:
- Be careful using USB “thumb” drives, which can be easily misplaced. They also are the perfect carrier for viruses and malware. USB drives were the culprit for the spread of the damaging Stuxnet virus which infiltrated industrial computers, including some at nuclear facilities.
- Use passwords. Protecting access to both the laptop and individual files and folders can slow down or discourage hacking attempts. Every week you hear stories about possible data breaches from stolen or lost or laptops that were unprotected.
- Mobile devices can be protected with security apps that can remotely “lock and “wipe” your device. Or, if you prefer, give me a call and I will be happy to “lick and wipe” your mobile device for free.
- Train employees how to spot phishing and scam emails that might distribute viruses. Some scammers will even spoof their emails to look like they are coming from a company’s HR department.
Using public Wi-Fi properly requires some technical know-how and common sense. When feasible, only look at public non-identifying sites on the public network, and purchase items or do banking when you are back at work or at home. While 24/7 access is nice, you can ask yourself “Do I have to do this now?” Unless pork chops are involved, I am willing to wait for almost anything. If you follow the tips on using public networks and best practices for portable drives and laptops, you will greatly increase your protection from malicious hackers.
When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.