Before COVID-19, plenty of people were working remotely, often from public places. There are nearly 58 million American freelancers, many of whom were not only working from home but public places like libraries, cafes, airports, bookstores, bars, diners, hotels, coworking spaces, colleges.
When the pandemic hit, it caused a massive shift in how businesses and employees operate. Suddenly it wasn’t just freelancers working remotely, but salaried employees too. As countries and different states relax their lockdown regulations, employees can slowly trickle back to work, but many businesses aren’t in a rush to get employees back into the office.
Companies like Twitter, Square, Facebook, Shopify, and more are allowing employees to work remotely until 2021, with the possibility of it continuing indefinitely, and small businesses are following suit.
The result is a large increase in the number of remote workers and employees working from public places. While this is good news for those who enjoy working remotely, many dangerous cyber threats can harm your business.
Let’s look at the most significant risks facing remote employees working in public spaces and how to mitigate them.
Risks of Public Wifi
One of the biggest perks of working in a public space is the free Wifi available. Many places such as coffee shops do it to attract customers, even museums offer free Wifi and can be a wonderful place to sit and work. But it’s not without its risks. If anyone in your team works remotely and uses Public Wifi, they need to be aware of the following dangers.
Rogue Wifi Networks
Using public Wifi networks means that anyone can capture sensitive information. They can snag things like emails, passwords, and unencrypted data and messages. They’re able to do this by ‘eavesdropping’ on data traveling over the network. If you’re sending or receiving any data that’s not encrypted, it can be seen by hackers.
Malware and viruses
It’s relatively easy for hackers to distribute malware and viruses on an unsecured Wifi, and an infected device can quickly spread the code throughout your company network. This can be made even easier through ad hoc attacks, which happen through peer-to-peer networks. When connecting to public Wifi, your device is automatically set to discover new networks and make itself available in the network, which enables hackers to connect to the device directly.
Here’s how you protect yourself
While there are many risks when using public Wifi, hackers typically go after ‘low hanging fruit’. These are targets that don’t follow the necessary security precautions. To fully protect your remote devices and your business, take a look at the following suggestions you can use to safeguard your company.
Refrain from using public Wifi
While using public Wifi is one of the main benefits of working from a public place, alternatively, you can connect to the internet using a hotspot from your mobile phone, which is much safer. The downside is that this can eat into your data plan.
Use a VPN
If a B2C VPN is often used to bypass geographic restrictions in order to watch location-specific content, a B2B Cloud VPN allows employees to connect to your business cloud apps and data on a secure and encrypted connection. By creating a ‘tunnel’ between the device and the internet, no one can snoop on the connection to try and steal any information and data, like login credentials and passwords.
And unlike a regular VPN that routes traffic through a server, a Cloud VPN doesn’t require you to install and manage any hardware.
Use two-factor authentication
If the unthinkable does happen, and hackers manage to acquire passwords to your business apps and data, using two-factor authentication (2FA) can help block unwanted access.
2FA works by adding an extra layer of authentication, such as requiring the user to input a code sent by SMS or generated by an app. Other methods involve scanning their fingerprint or using a 2nd form of identification, such as another password or answering a security question.
By adding a second authentication factor, you can prevent malicious hackers from gaining access and block 100% of automated bot hacks.
Firewalls allow your computer to block incoming connections that may be trying to cause you harm. If you don’t have an active firewall, then there’s no barrier protecting you from attack. A firewall works by monitoring and checking all the packets of data that are received from networks. When unknown or malicious packets are detected, the firewall blocks it from your computer.
Turn off Wifi and Bluetooth when you don’t need it
You may not realize it, but even if you’re not connected to a Wifi network, your laptop or smartphone may still be transmitting data that can be intercepted. Some devices are also set to automatically connect to available networks, such as Wifi and Bluetooth. Always turn off any automatic network connections, and turn off your Wifi and Bluetooth unless you’re actively using it.
Use antivirus software
Like a firewall, antivirus software helps keep your computer safe by detecting any viruses and malware that might have penetrated your system. Relying on a firewall alone isn’t enough, as there are still ways to get around it.
Hackers have been known to trick users into downloading malicious code by mimicking safe programs or infecting another machine in the company network, which then infects other users. Even if a virus makes its way past your firewall, an antivirus can detect it and remove it from your computer.
Create a set of employee policies
To help keep your employees and your business safe when working remotely from public places, create a simple set of policies and procedures for employees to follow, which includes all of the above advice. This way, you can help promote a safe and secure working environment, even when connecting to free Wifi and operating outside of a typical office environment.