Security for your smart device is now more important than ever. Since 2015, the amount of e-commerce transactions, social media interactions and corporate data interactions, as well as personal communications performed on smart devices including tablets, phones and smart watches, has surpassed the amount on PCs and laptops.
Our daily lives are tied to our smart devices. Many studies suggest the average smart phone user checks their phone anywhere from 40 times a day for casual users to several hundred times a day for “power users.” In the course of the average day, a smart device with Wi-Fi-enabled capability is exposed to several hundred separate wireless networks while at work, play and as a passenger in your car.
Although most of this exposure can be just for a few seconds, the amount of communication that goes on between the device and the Wi-Fi network is astounding. With this in mind, one must consider all the transactions of data they do on a regular basis when connected to a public Wi-Fi network.
From transmitting passwords, account numbers, and personal information to just chatting on social media, your life is exposed and your data is available to anyone with even the most basic of hacking tools. Do not think for a moment that because you are not actively using your smart device that it is not broadcasting information that can leave you vulnerable to a data breach.
Here are some of the most common myths about public internet usage and how you can combat these situations and reduce your risk of data loss:
Myth #1: Public Wi-Fi is secure if a Captive Portal is required for log in.
Many businesses now offer free Wi-Fi—but you have to go through a Captive Portal to gain access. You may have seen this at Panera or Starbucks, where you’re required to log on through a branded web page that often has coupons associated with it.
While this feature helps reduce the chances of you hooking onto a rogue Wi-Fi that claims to be the businesses, it stops short of giving your data protection. Your data going through this portal is not the same as going through an encrypted tunnel, as it only allows tracking of your movements and also gathers information on your surfing habits to give you content that the vendor thinks may interest you.
Very few people read the Terms of Service that they are agreeing to by “checking the box.” The biggest lie told on the internet is not on a dating site, but when we check the box that states we “Understand and Accept the Terms of Service”. More often than not, if you read it fully, you will see that you are explicitly told that your data is public.
Browsers that protect a user’s privacy such as Tor, a free software that prevents people from learning your location or browsing habits, will not even be allowed to run. A simple search on YouTube using the keywords “wireshark” and “public Wi-Fi” will show you a multitude of videos of people pulling valuable information in plain text out of thin air.
Solution: Virtual Private Network (VPN) for Smart Devices
You don’t need to own a web server or access to a corporate network to enjoy the security of a secure encrypted tunnel. For the price of a fancy coffee that you purchased, you can get the latest encryption for your data that will leave any hacker with packets of garble that cannot be translated. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) function by establishing a tunnel with a web server using encryption protocols.
VPN mechanics can be complex, but simply put, you create a secret tunnel with keys that only you and the web server know about. These keys are used to encrypt your data to make it unreadable by a third party that does not have the key. The encryptions are so strong it would take the most sophisticated computers centuries to unencrypt the data.
Ranging in price from free to about $10 a month, you can have a reliable encryption of your data through a tunnel to an internet gateway. These solutions work right out of the box and can help to protect your data even if it is intercepted. PC Mag and CNET have product reviews to help find the solution that is right for you.