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How to Avoid Public Wi-Fi Security Risks

By Robert Pizarro

It seems easy and convenient to use public Wi-Fi – there are free connections in almost any airport, hotel, restaurant or coffee shop – but for your clients, it's important to remember the risks. Can your client really afford to expose valuable business or personal data? There’s no need to if agents and clients use these safeguards to avoid becoming a victim and putting business data at risk.

What's the Risk?

Cyber Liability Coverage is the BEST way to keep your clients safe on public Wi-Fi.

Since no authentication is required on public Wi-Fi to establish a connection, hackers have an easier time stealing data. Cyber thieves position themselves between a person with an unsecured device and the connection point, which means information is sent to the hacker instead of the hotspot. This is how emails, search requests and credit card numbers are hijacked.

Many cyber thieves also use unsecured connections to send out malware. For those who allow file sharing, it is easy to become infected. Some hackers can target the connection point, which creates a popup window while the computer is connecting. It offers a free upgrade for a certain type of program that most people use – and clicking on the fake offer automatically installs the malware.

As public Wi-Fi becomes more common, expect to see hackers step up their game, too. Security issues will continue to increase. But it’s simply a reminder to use safeguards to thwart would-be attackers.

How to Use Public Wi-Fi Safely

VPNs are a very good idea

Always use a VPN. A virtual private network serves as a buffer between the Wi-Fi connection and the mobile device. Any transmitted data is then encrypted and becomes too much work for the hacker to attempt to crack. Use a trusted and reputable VPN provider. While some providers charge a fee of around $10 for monthly service, some are free. Small businesses that use a reputable VPN will not only mitigate security risks – but lower their risk profile, which may qualify them for cyber liability premium discounts.

SSLs help keep your data safe

Use SSL connections. Secure Sockets Layer is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between server and a browser. Although most people are not as prone to use a VPN, they can easily add encryption to communications by enabling the "always use HTTPS" feature on a mobile device. This ensures a secure connection to sites, and is vital for any site where financial credentials are entered.

Disable direct auto Wi-Fi connect

Turn off automatic Wi-Fi when it is not in use. When a phone is not connected to Wi-Fi, an automatic search will still transmit some data while looking for available networks. To stay safe, disable Wi-Fi after finishing. The how-to will vary by device.

Turn off sharing to tighten security

Turn off sharing capabilities through the device’s control panel. Allowing sharing gives people who have the ability to use it access to device data.

Coverage to Keep Your Clients in Business

Taking these precautions can help reduce the likelihood, or frequency and severity, of a security breach. Be vigilant – and always stay open to learning more about staying safe online in public places.

 And remember, issues may still arise even with the best safeguards in place. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. For peace of mind, find out what AmTrust Cyber Liability Coverage can do to help your business clients prevail if the unexpected occurs. Not a member of our team?

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Robert Pizarro is Professional Lines Project Manager for AmTrust North America, a multi-national property and casualty insurer specializing in coverage for small businesses. 

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published on April 12, 2017 and has been updated and edited.

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