You’re off to your favorite vacation spot, raring to get your well-deserved break underway when you suddenly remember the urgent email you forgot to send before leaving the office. The beachfront diner has free Wi-Fi so you figure, “Why not?” You log on to your company account, hit ‘send,’ and just like that, you’ve exposed yourself—and your company’s accounts—to potential malware and hackers.
Free Wi-Fi may be a thing of beauty, but when it comes to your work, you should avoid using just any available connection—especially when many are neither secure nor private. Before you head to the beach this summer, uncheck the little box on your smart phones and laptops that says, “ Automatically connect to available networks.” You’ll be saving yourself a headache. VIDEO What’s Wrong with Public Wi-Fi? Well for starters, it’s public. Chances are, your company goes through a lot to ensure that the integrity of its networks, website, and email accounts are up to snuff. This means firewalls, anti-malware protection—you name it, they’ve probably integrated it into their networks and servers. So when you connect to the local hotspot and log on to your company email account, you’re doing so without the benefit of that protection. Not all Internet connections are secure, and when you use an unsecured one to access important cloud apps, your company’s network, or email, you’re putting that sensitive information out there for strangers to view, alter, and possibly steal. What Are My Options? For starters, you could leave your work at the office. But if you can’t disconnect entirely, do some research before you connect. Find a hotspot or Wi-Fi access point that boasts encryptions and a more secure network. If it’s private and password-protected, you’re already better off. If you travel a lot, then consider investing in a personal “MiFi” device for mobile Wi-Fi. This puts wireless connectivity at your disposal and you won’t have to worry about others being able to access your info or the connection you’re sending it across. If you’re truly desperate for a secure connection, many smart phones can be utilized as mobile hotspots—just make sure your data plan will support the extra workload if you go that route. Is My Information Really In Danger? It’s so easy to hack public Wi-Fi that even a 7-year-old could do it. Any information you send over an unsecured connection is at risk of being intercepted by a third party or damaged by malware. People all over the world have sensitive information taken from them due to unsecure connections and shady websites—they have their identities stolen and credit card numbers taken, and that’s typically just from web browsing at home. When you’re using public Wi-Fi connections, the risk of your information being seen by another increases exponentially, which is why you should be extra cautious when it comes to accessing sensitive data related to your company while out of the office. What Other Precautions Can I Take To Protect My Information? Turn off your laptop and phone’s ability to automatically connect to available networks. You’ll still be able to connect manually, but this helps prevent your mobile devices from connecting to unsafe or unsecure networks while you’re actually enjoying your vacation. It’s never wise to allow unknown networks to connect to your devices without your knowledge or consent. Next, disable all printer and file-sharing options on your mobile devices. Hackers don’t need much to access your sensitive information, but with this precaution you’ll be making it anything but easy for them to ruin your vacation. When in doubt, save your sensitive work for when you’re back in the office. Whether you can’t pull yourself away from the office one hundred percent or you’ve been left with a few dozen last-minute work-related errands, working on your vacation should be done as safely as possible. Even if you’re sipping margaritas while you do it—it’s still work. The fewer risks you take with your digital information, the smaller the chance you wind up having to repeat that work upon your return. And if you’re the boss and you suspect your employees may be doing a little extra work while they should be relaxing, encourage them to do so safely with the above tips.