I had a client ask me recently how she could know she was safe while surfing the Internet on the free wi-fi networks available in the various coffee shops around the city. I went through the general comments of a good firewall, malware and virus protection, but also offered a few other ideas for her to think about.
One of the things that immediately makes me start wondering about whether a wi-fi network at an establishment is legit, is whether or not the name of the wi-fi network being broadcast matches or at least is similar to the business name.
For example, I was at a coffee shop the other day and a list of about 12 wi-fi networks within range popped up as available. Within the entire list there was nothing listed that even remotely identified with the business.
The strongest network listed was labeled "linksys", real creative. A personal security step for me is that I don’t connect to a wi-fi network unless I’m sure of the one I’m connecting. In this case, I got up and asked the manager what they had named their network, sadly he didn’t know but he thought "linksys" sounded right.
Dear business owners if you’re offering free wi-fi at your establishment, know a little and train your employees to know a little bit about how things work, at least what the network is named and how to reset the router would be great! And please, name your network something that your patrons can easily identify.
Another little thing I do is to try and avoid doing any financial transactions online over a free wi-fi network. I’m not too worried about hacking for the most part, but this is an area where I just feel that most of the time, I can wait till I’m back at home on my own secure network before doing this task online.
Image: richiec on flickr