Why you should be wary of the free Wi-Fi (and opt for a VPN)

Free Wi-Fi connections (often unsecured) abound—tempting us in hotels, coffee shops, airports, mall food courts, and more. But the potential costs to your data and your organization’s data integrity are real, no matter the size of your business, according to Interrupt’s IT Director Matt Wittman. Here, he shares why a VPN should be the go-to tool in your cyber security arsenal anytime you’re working remotely.

Think of your tech hygiene like your dental hygiene—consistency wins when you’re fighting the ransomware, malware, and viruses that are trying to infiltrate your company data. (Bacteria and plaque don’t take a day off, and neither do these guys.)

One of the entry points for those attacks is through a door few people think twice about, especially when they’re busy: free Wi-Fi connection.

The increase in remote work, especially during the summer, means more people are computing outside the confines of the office, where an in-house IT team has gone to lengths to ensure that internet firewalls are, well, firing. In the wild world of Wi-Fi, where you’re being tracked and sharing a network with other possibly malicious computers, your data is up for grabs.

What can you do about it? When you're not on a trusted network, use a VPN—a virtual private network—every single time you connect to unsecured public Wi-Fi. Do so even when it is password protected, since a bad actor can obtain the Wi-Fi network password the same way you did. Your VPN will build a protective tunnel for your data to travel through, keeping you safe by concealing your online activity from those with bad intentions. Think of it as a private underground tunnel allowing you to cut through a crowded amusement park unnoticed.

It’s the simplest, most effective thing you can do to protect your workplace and yourself from a scam—a nefarious agent trying to obtain information that will get them money, user data, or more. The old adage of “it probably won’t happen to us” (a phrase spoken too often, especially by small businesses) might be true—but if it does, the pain and cost of repairing the damage will ensure regret for not taking the simple measures of protection while they were available.

Make sure you have an IT person or IT partner who can provide a corporate VPN, or encourage your company’s leadership to invest in a secure VPN service. All businesses of every size should take steps to protect themselves and invest in this simple preventative cyber security measure.

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