Why WiFi is a Security Risk for Your Business’s Wireless Network

By: Denise Reed | May 27, 2020

Locking doors and installing security cameras are no longer enough to keep your business safe. Your data and your clients’ data lives in the digital realm, and if you’re relying only on your WiFi’s default security, you might as well have a Hide-A-Key by the front door.

Since WiFi is the most popular and widely used wireless network, it presents its own set of cybersecurity concerns. But just as you have a security system for your physical building, there are ways to protect your digital assets against potential breaches, from setting your network passwords to installing a private in-building wireless system or setting up Virtual Private Networks (VPN) for your remote workers.

What risks does WiFi pose to businesses?

For organizations like college and university campuses, hospitals, large retail and office complexes,  WiFi can be a security risk for the larger internal network. Common access points to WiFi networks include: 

"Piggybacking" 

What is it?  Piggybacking on Internet access is the practice of establishing a wireless Internet connection by using another subscriber's wireless Internet access service without the subscriber's explicit permission or knowledge.

This can be done from any wireless-enabled computer, and depending on the location of your business’s wireless access point, and can be completed from up to 1000 feet away. Once on your network, the unwanted users can hack into sensitive information, monitor web traffic, or conduct other illegal activities.

Security Breaches

Security breaches can be intentional, as in the case of a brute force attack—a trial-and-error method used to crack encrypted data—or accidental, such as falling for a phishing email and providing personal information to a malicious source.

Distribution of Malware

Hackers can use an unsecured WiFi connection to distribute malware and infect your computer. Malware encompasses any software that is designed to disrupt, damage, or gain access to a computer system, and poses a serious threat to your business’s wireless security.

How to protect your business and client data in the office.

Even with secured and public WiFi, businesses often provide guests with access to their networks. While the intent might not be malicious, it does still open up a risky access point, and the consequences could be catastrophic. 

Boost your cybersecurity program to protect the network and prevent unauthorized, malicious access to your data as well as your clients’ sensitive information.

  • Change default passwords. The first line of defense is to program personalized passwords on network devices. Eliminate default passwords that are easily obtained online for a baseline of cybersecurity and protection.
  • Separate your Wi-Fi networks. Have two separate Wi-Fi networks for staff and guests to restrict unwanted access to your business’s data and prevent unauthorized users from accidentally viewing sensitive information or infecting your network with malware.
  • Encrypt your data. By encrypting your company’s wireless data, you prevent people who have gained unauthorized access to the network from viewing the information within that network. Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), WiFi Protected Access (WPA), WPA2, and WPA3 are all options that encrypt information effectively, but WPA3 is the strongest option currently available.
  • Eliminate in-office WiFi. While WiFi is the most widespread method of wireless connection, the cybersecurity concerns of an improperly secured network are undeniable. Consider installing a private in-building wireless system as a secure and efficient alternative to Wi-Fi that will be much less susceptible to unauthorized entry from hackers and protect client and company information.

How remote workers can practice safe wireless activity.

Wireless connectivity revolutionized the office, as workers were no longer restricted to their desks. Today, the remote workforce requires additional security measures to protect the integrity of a company network beyond the in-building wireless system, to extend to wherever employees log on. A comprehensive remote access policy should include several measures, both technical and practical, to ensure a remote employee is not a weak link in the company’s cybersecurity.

  • Set up a VPN for remote workers. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows remote workers to connect securely to the company network even when they’re away from the office. VPNs encrypt transmissions at the start and endpoints and keep out unidentified traffic.
  • Update public usage terms. In public settings, malicious actors can gain sensitive information simply by looking at an unfiltered screen or stealing a device. Coach remote employees to be aware of their surroundings, and to remain discreet with the information viewed or accessed while in public.
  • Avoid using public WiFi. If a company can’t set up a VPN, most mobile carriers provide the option to set up a private mobile "hotspot" through a smartphone that can support a laptop to avoid using public WiFi altogether.
  • Use HTTPS-enabled websites. These websites block intrusive agents—whether benign or malicious—from tampering with the connection between websites and user browsers to acquire personal information.

Switching from WiFi to a private in-building wireless connection can help protect the company’s central network. Establishing secure options for remote workers further defends a business in the face of potential hacking and unauthorized access. Wireless network security measures will help preserve and protect not only company data but  the vital client and financial information as well.

Posted on May 27, 2020 , updated on July 02, 2020

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