My friend, having suffered from identity theft some ten years ago, has a hyperactive sense of cybersecurity. Although he likes to take advantage of technology for things like online banking, he’s not an expert with computers. His past experience has him thinking about the various ways a potential attacker could try to access his data. I think it’s great that he’s taken a careful approach to securing his personal information, so I’m happy to entertain him when he calls with questions about security.
Most recently, he called me to ask if he needed to be worried about using his computer at the café. He had been working on a spreadsheet containing the details of a business he helps run, and he had heard that hackers could sometimes access devices in public places. We determined that in his specific situation, he had nothing to worry about, but it led to a discussion regarding security in public places.
Naturally, the café offered a free Wi-Fi connection for its patrons. Savvy as he is, my friend recognized Wi-Fi as a potential security weak link. He didn’t have much choice, though. The data he was working with was web-based, and he absolutely needed a wireless connection to get work done. The concern is that Wi-Fi networks can easily be spoofed, or data intercepted.
Unfortunately, Wi-Fi is an inherently insecure wireless solution relative to cellular connectivity. This is, in part, due to the way the network handles encryption. With Wi-Fi, only the access point (router) is encrypted. A hacker only needs to compromise the network at one location, or trick users into joining a fake connection, to gain access to all devices on the network. That weakness also increases an attacker’s incentive to target Wi-Fi.
Cellular connectivity, on the other hand, requires encryption at the device level. That is to say, every device on a cellular network manages its own encryption. The benefit here is that if there is a chink in the armor elsewhere in the network, the other devices are much less likely to be compromised.
I advised my friend that if he were worried about accessing sensitive information over a wireless network, he should switch to cellular data. I practice what I preach, and it’s what I would advise anyone to do, including our customers.
At this point, we’re all dependent on cellular connectivity on a personal level. It’s only natural that we bring that dependence to our professional lives and our businesses. As more companies implement wireless technology and the internet of things, and start using those systems to run their business-critical applications, security needs to be top of mind.
If you’re interested in learning more about best practices for wireless security and how a DAS can enable your wireless enterprise, feel free to get in touch!