If you’re an entrepreneur and you use public Wi-Fi, you’re an easy target for hackers looking for data to steal. Public Wi-Fi today is usually unencrypted, which means it’s open season for hackers.
Encryption is vital to your privacy and data security, which translates to maintaining your business without having your bank accounts and proprietary information stolen.
Encryption in a nutshell
Encryption transforms data into an unreadable form that can only be decrypted by a special key. An encrypted file, when opened, will look like gibberish until it’s properly decrypted.
If you haven’t given genuine consideration to encrypting your data, here are 4 reasons you should:
1. If you use public Wi-Fi, your data is at risk
When your Wi-Fi network is password protected, that password protects the websites you visit from being discovered by other people. Without a password, hackers can access the websites you visit, along with anything you type into unencrypted web forms.
Public-Wi-Fi has never been completely secure, although in years past it was commonly protected by a temporary password that would only be provided with a purchase. This type of protection made it harder for hackers to gain access to information being sent across the network.
You can’t control whether or not public Wi-Fi is encrypted, but you can take your own precautions to protect yourself like using a VPN to route your traffic through an encrypted server. While a VPN isn’t a guaranteed solution, it does decrease your risk of getting hacked.
2. You can’t rely on encrypted websites
Just because a website is encrypted doesn’t mean you are automatically protected anytime you visit that site. For example, your bank’s website is probably encrypted, but if you’re using an unencrypted Wi-Fi network to access your bank’s website, your login credentials could easily be stolen as you type them in.
Hackers can also hijack HTTP connections and create fake HTTPS links that you think are real, allowing a man-in-the-middle attack to intercept what would otherwise be a secure browsing experience.
If your computer is infected with a keystroke logger, anything you type into your computer will be transmitted to the hacker, even if you’re connected to the most secure network in the world.
If you’re on an unencrypted network, like the ones at Starbucks, someone could sit in the lobby with a simple tool and hijack your browsing session.
The only way to prevent this is to keep your data encrypted on your computer, or better yet, don’t use public Wi-Fi networks when conducting your business.
3. Emails can be hijacked
Encrypting emails is especially important because that’s where most company communications take place. Credit card numbers and company secrets are commonly exchanged through email, and if anyone is snooping in on your email conversations you can guarantee that information will fall into the wrong hands.
Some businesses only require employees to encrypt emails they consider to be private, but employees might misjudge what’s considered private. That’s why you should install a program on your company’s email server that encrypts every email, and not allow staff to encrypt selectively.
4. Not all hotspots are authentic
Hackers often create fake hotspots to trick people into connecting to what they think is their usual coffee shop Wi-Fi network. For example, they might bring a device into Starbucks and setup a fake hotspot called “Starbucks.” If you’re savvy enough to remember how the real network’s name is spelled, you won’t get caught in this trap.
Real networks are prone to becoming compromised, though, so even connecting to a genuine hotspot could be dangerous.
Data encryption isn’t just for top-secret files created by the government. There are real threats out there, and your data in any form should be encrypted at its destination as well as in transit.