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Protecting Yourself on Wireless Networks

FYI – 3/3/2017

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written by Christopher J. Emert, Managing Director, Operations & Technology

 

A wireless or “Wi-Fi” connection is one of the most common ways to connect to the internet – most of us use one daily. However, the convenience of Wi-Fi sometimes comes bundled with security risks. These risks can be greatly reduced or eliminated by taking a few extra steps when you’re on a wireless connection. At Matter, we implement many best practices for protecting our clients’ information. We have a network for associates that only approved devices can access, and a guest network for visitors. We require all mobile devices with Matter data to be password-protected and all laptops to be encrypted with a pin password. We also use a VPN (more on that below) to access Matter information when working outside the office.

Below are a few best practices you can implement in public, at work, and at home to ensure the safety of your personal information.

In Public:

  1. Don’t use public Wi-Fi networks. Hackers often create public networks that seem to offer convenient free access to the internet, while in reality they are used to collect personal information you use while connected to them. We know that avoiding public Wi-Fi altogether isn’t always practical or possible, so below you’ll find some additional tips to make the use of public Wi-Fi less risky.
  2. If you must use a public network, check the authenticity of the network. For example, if you’re in a café with Wi-Fi, ask an employee for the correct network name and password. Don’t assume you are connecting to the café’s network just because its name looks similar to the name of the café.
  3. Only use networks that require a password. Passwords, also known as WPA or WPA2 encryption, make Wi-Fi networks less vulnerable to hackers.
  4. Avoid doing anything of a sensitive nature on a public Wi-Fi network. This includes online banking, accessing credit card accounts, or reading email.
  5. Manually select Wi-Fi networks. Rather than “remembering” or automatically connecting to a network you previously connected to. You can adjust the settings on your devices to make sure they do not connect automatically to a Wi-Fi network.
  6. Use a Virtual Private Network or “VPN.” Not many individuals use VPNs but many companies and institutions offer the ability to log in to a VPN so that you can securely use even an unknown public Wi-Fi network. A bonus feature of VPNs is that you can use them to use US-based streaming services like Netflix while abroad. To learn more about VPNs, check out this article.

At Home or in Your Office:

  1. Require a password to your home network. Choose a strong password, and change it on a regular basis. For more information on creating a strong password, see this post.
  2. Use WPA or WPA2 encryption. When you first set up your router, you will be able to select from a few different security options for encryption. Make sure to select WPA or WPA2 from the list.
  3. Physically secure your wireless router. Ideally, you should store your server in a private, or even locked, location.
  4. Create a guest network. If you are going to have visitors who need access to the internet, but you don’t want to give them to access your network, create a separate guest network. Most commercially available wireless routers allow you to do this for your Wi-Fi network.

 

This blog post is the second in a series of technology and cybersecurity posts. Keep an eye out for the next article in the series and, as always, please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns.

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