Public Wi-Fi Security Tips


In a somewhat ironic bit of timing, just days after New York City Mayor de Blasio announced the city will install 10,000 free public Wi-Fi kiosks, the NYC Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications (DOITT) warned the public about the dangers of public Wi-Fi  The November issue of the ‘Citywide Information Security Awareness Newsletter’ educated New Yorkers about the security risks of public Wi-Fi providing these tips and reminders:

  • It’s not very difficult for hackers to intercept usernames, passwords, emails, and files you send over an unsecure email network using ‘packet sniffers’.
  • Beware of shared folders on a public network that would appear under a user’s shared folders.
  • Files that tempt people to click on them with names like  ‘sexyphoto.jpg’ or ‘diary.txt likely could be viruses in disguise designed to gain malicious access to your computer.
  • Seek secure public networks that utilize encryption, which non-secure networks do not.

Nick Sbordone, a DOITT spokesman, said the free Wi-Fi provided by the city “would use the same high levels of data encryption to protect users’ personal information as banks do. This would make [the city’s system, LinkNYC] much more secure than a regular public Wi-Fi network.”

Another best practice that organizations should consider is to use email encryption, which nullifies packet sniffers. This is especially relevant for employees, customers and partners that are traveling or remote and have a need to exchange confidential information from an airport, coffee shop or other public network. No organization can afford to give responsibility for their information security to a public network even if it claims to be secure. Email encryption is a must in today’s environment where many must work while on the move in order to maintain productivity.

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image: wi-fi mista stagga lee 3.27.10