We have all done it. Some time between meetings, stop at Starbucks and get some work done. Check email while you are waiting for your flight at the airport. Or even shelling out the $30 to connect on the plane during that cross country flight for a sales meeting to finish that presentation or send the contract after a successful sale on the way home.
And while the warning comes up that it is not a secure network and your data may be vulnerable, or even checking the box that we agree we won’t hold Panera responsible for any data theft while on their free wi-fi over lunch, we choose to take the risk for the convenience.
I recently read the article on Dell’s Tech Page One “How safe is your data while flying?” which got me thinking: People need to be made more aware of just how open their data is on public networks.
“That means credit card and personal information is vulnerable to phishing or even “spear phishing” attacks where thieves try to persuade you to hand over valuable information with a legitimate looking email. (Companies should) use encryption on their devices, such as a free service like Tor, or a virtual private network (VPN), along with Electric Frontier’s HTTPS Everywhere. If you’re not using any type of encryption service like Tor or a VPN, your data can be stolen.”
Risk Analysis: Data Security
At the very least, do a risk analysis for yourself. Perhaps you don’t store a lot of sensitive, potentially valuable information on your laptop, or you don’t make purchases online when on a public network. In that case, a strong antivirus and anti-malware program on your machine, coupled with smart internet use, will suffice for you.
But if your laptop houses sensitive company data, such as customer account information if you are a financial institution, then having that compromised over a public network can cause some serious issues for you and your company. Deploying a company wide VPN strategy, with security and strong encryption tools in place, will be key.