Cables are so 10 years ago. Wireless technology has freed us from our desks and connected our numerous devices. But like anything, setting up a wireless network has security implications
Whenever your smartphone, laptop or tablet brings up a list of available Wi-Fi networks, it's not uncommon to find one or more insecure networks. Often the biggest risk is unscrupulous neighbours enjoying free internet at another's expense. Businesses, however, face many more damaging risks, including stolen data or malicious damage to company infrastructure.
A few simple steps can help protect you from these very real dangers.
Default admin settings and passwords
When setting up your new wireless router, don't be in such a rush that you retain the default settings and passwords to the administration settings. An alarming number of wireless networks retain 'admin / admin' or 'password' defaults, making it child's play for anyone connected to your network to change all the settings.
Take the time during the initial setup to create new, unique login details.
Always enable either WEP or WPA encryption. This secures access by only allowing permitted devices to connect to the network with another password. However, hackers can crack WEP encryption. If possible, adopt WPA or WPA2 encryption, which is er and more secure.
Network names and passwords
Many wireless networks adopt the name of the business, but this can make some networks an attractive target. When setting your network name, try to avoid signalling that yours is a valuable network to hack.
Similarly, your network password should be and not easy to guess from available information. Use random numbers, letters and characters if possible. A pet shop's network with the password CatsAndDogs won't stay safe for long.
Beware hotel & cafe Wi-Fi
When travelling, it may be necessary to use a hotel or coffee shop's Wi-Fi network to get work done. Free internet with a coffee may be tempting, but you have no idea how safe the wireless network is or who else may be connected to the same network, watching and recording all of your activity.
When working remotely, a virtual private network (VPN) can keep your activity encrypted and lock out intruders. The VPN creates a secure connection with your business network so you can log in from your laptop in an airport lounge with the same confidence as if you were back in the office.
Secure every wireless point
It just takes one weak link to expose your business to hackers. If your business operates across multiple locations, ensure the wireless point in each follows exactly the same security protocols. If one office or home network becomes hacked, and that network has access to your wider business, it won't matter how secure head office is.
Remember to change the locks
More than a few businesses have been hacked or compromised by disgruntled ex-employees because no one thought to update all the passwords. It's no different to taking back the keys or changing the locks. Make sure only current employees or authorised persons have access.
The more techniques you use, the more secure your network and your business data will be.
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This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Jonathan has worked within, and written about, the technology industry for many years. Before going freelance as a writer in 2012, Jonathan had worked for Netregistry (web hosting) and Ninefold (cloud computing). Jonathan has won awards for his articles on online business for Nett Magazine and his over-opinionated blog Atomik Soapbox. He continues to write for Chief Content Officer magazine.