We hear about mobile hot spots. We know that we depend on them for internet connectivity on the go. But, do you understand how it all works? Here’s what to know and what to be wary of as you use internet access outside the office and home.
You might already be carrying a device, such as a smartphone, that facilitates a mobile hot spot. Also known as tethering, you are typically furnished a password by your mobile device to type in on your laptop, or other device, connecting it to the internet.
Each wireless network is known by its SSID, or service set identifier. Available WiFi networks will show up by their SSIDs. You click you connect and there you are. But, where are you, specifically? On who’s network, with whom, and what do they know about what you’re doing? Here are some good rules to live by when hot spot hopping.
Know your SSID: You’re in a hurry. Just have to dash that email off before getting on the plane. Did you connect to Boingo (http://www.boingo.com/) or Bongo? Did you notice? Be aware of the networks you’re connecting to. Favor the known, trusted networks, over the ones that simply appear familiar. Hackers are clever at naming SSIDs to entice you to click on them.
Mind your business: If you’re using your own mobile hot spot that is 4G enabled, your connection is encrypted. So, it is safer than using the public WiFi network that might be easier to connect to. Symantec won’t go as far as to say that 4G is unhackable. White hat hackers (ethical “good guy” hackers) have been able to penetrate the security around 4G. It is far more complicated than hacking public WiFi, but still vulnerable. Limit what you do away from a known secure network. Avoid internet banking, accessing systems whose passwords are common with more mission critical systems.
Prepare before you leave: Download files locally that you’ll need on the road. Cloud storage usually has the ability to sync up local copies of files. This capability allows files to sync back up once connected to a network. Just wait until you’re in a secure location before syncing up. Check out the WiFi services at the various airports you’ll be visiting. Look at the service-level agreements on those services websites and make an informed decision about whether and what to use to protect your data.
Also, be sure you know your company’s policies with regard to computing on the road. Many organizations provide a VPN or Virtual Private Network connection, which is less penetrable than 4G over your cellular/mobile data service. Choose wisely. Connect in haste, repent at leisure. The impact of a security breach compromising passwords or disclosing confidential information can go on considerably longer than the time it takes to wait to get back to a secure connection.