Allowing employees to work from remote locations comes with advantages. However, remote working is not without its risks. If your team works from cafés, on trains, or in airports, you should be mindful of the following seven hidden dangers of public Wi-Fi and about what you can do to avoid the risks.

  1. Rogue Wi-Fi networks. You and your team could be tricked into using a rogue Wi-Fi network set up by an attacker. That network enticingly called "Free Wi-Fi" may be set up precisely to harvest your business's valuable data.
  2. Man-in-the-middle attacks. Connecting to free, public Wi-Fi brings business risks from having your company data intercepted by third parties. This is because hackers have the ability to position themselves between your employees who are using the Wi-Fi and the connection point.
  3. Distribution of malware over unsecured Wi-Fi. Hackers can also use an unsecured Wi-Fi connection to distribute malware. Having infected software on your computers and devices can be financially crippling to your business.
  4. Snooping and sniffing. Another public Wi-Fi risk is hackers using special software kits enabling them to eavesdrop on Wi-Fi signals. This allows cybercriminals to access everything your remote workers are doing online, potentially enabling them to capture login credentials and even hijack your accounts.
  5. Malicious attacks through ad hocs. Ad hocs are peer-to-peer networks which connect two computers directly. When remote workers use a public Wi-Fi network, their devices are likely to be set to discover new networks, making it possible for hackers to connect directly to them.
  6. Password and username vulnerability. Using a public Wi-Fi makes you and your employees vulnerable to having passwords and usernames stolen when you log on.  Websites utilizing secure socket layer or HTTPs provide a needed level of security. 
  7. Exposure to worm attacks. Worms act much like viruses, with one key difference. Viruses must have a program to attack in order to successfully compromise a system, while worms can wreak havoc all by themselves. When connected to a public Wi-Fi, you run the risk of a worm travelling from another device that's connected to the network to your computer.

Using unsecured public Wi-Fi can allow others to see important emails, encrypted messages and unsecured logins. And, of course, it would be possible for a cybercriminal to use the access to hack your device as well. Here are important steps to take before using public Wi-Fi:

  • Convert to the more secure HTTPS for your website and applications, if you haven't already done so. HTTPS-enabled websites provide critical security and protect users' personal information such as login credentials.
  • Set up a virtual private network (VPN) for your company network. A VPN is like a tunnel that keeps out prying eyes. Ask remote workers to always log in to the VPN, so they will have a secure connection to your network, shielding their activity from cybercriminals on public Wi-Fi.
  • Advise remote users to turn off Wi-Fi auto-connect settings and Bluetooth discoverability settings. This helps prevent hackers from gaining direct peer-to-peer access to user devices without them realizing it.
  • Ensure that all remote workers have a firewall enabled on devices at all times.
  • Make sure your network and all worker devices are covered by good anti-malware software--including anti-sniffing protection.
  • Use a mobile hotspot provided through your mobile carrier, or tether laptops to a mobile device, and avoid using public Wi-Fi altogether.
  • Set up policies regarding the above, and periodically educate workers so they understand the risks and the importance of taking protective steps.