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How to Take Advantage of Wireless Networking Without Leaving Your Network Vulnerable

Exploring why and how to secure wireless networking is a must for businesses in all industries

Wireless networking has made all areas of business easier and more streamlined. Communication is quicker and resources are more readily available. The old technical problems of the past like finding the right Ethernet cable or ensuring new machines get connected efficiently are gone. However, some new challenges have arisen.

Wireless networks introduce increased risk to your network security. That’s why businesses operating on a wireless network need to make a serious effort to protect their access and data. In today’s world of instant connection, almost everyone has at least one internet-connected device – sometimes in their pocket, on a smartphone. With so many devices floating around, it’s critical to implement a security strategy that controls access and minimizes exploitation risks.

So, let’s review the key questions your organization should be considering when trying to secure your wireless network.

  1. What are the risks to an unsecured wireless network?

As mentioned, securing your network in a world that increasingly influenced by IoT advancements, can be a challenge. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a clear idea of what you’re up against. This way, you’ll have a proactive understanding of existing threats and can better develop strategies for mitigation and protection.

Here are some of the top risks to an unsecured wireless network:

  • PIGGYBACKING

When your wireless network isn’t secured, anyone with a wireless-enabled device in range of your access point can gain unauthorized access to your company network. The range of access on wireless networks often stretches further than you may think, meaning closely settled streets and neighborhoods experience increased exposure.

This exposure opens the door for countless unidentified and unauthorized users to access and use your company’s wireless network. Once they’ve gained access, these strangers can use your network for whatever they see fit including monitoring and capturing your web traffic, accessing and stealing company data from other illegal activities.

  • EVIL TWIN ATTACKS

Evil Twin attacks occur when an adversary or hostile party gathers information about your public network access point and then creates a ‘dummy’ network to impersonate yours. While the attack may sound like a funny prank, the adversary deploys a stronger signal than your network, duping employees and other network users to log into their spoof network instead. This allows these imposters to read data that users are sending and sharing online, including login information, credit card numbers, and any other sensitive personal data.

  • WIRELESS SNIFFING

Because there are countless public network access points that remain unsecured, the data and traffic they transmit is not encrypted. This leaves all your network traffic and sensitive communications and transactions up for grabs. With your network traffic exposed, malicious hackers of all kind could deploy sniffing tools to get their hands on sensitive company and customer data.

  • UNAUTHORIZED COMPUTER ACCESS

If your wireless network isn’t secured, and you have unsecured file-sharing in place, malicious actors could have easy access to company files and directories that you have inadvertently left exposed. Without ensuring that connected devices are denied sharing permissions on your public network, your company data is sitting prey.

  • SHOULDER SURFING

This one is a little more personal. It’s a frightening fact that in business spaces and public places of all kinds, all it takes is a strategic look over a shoulder to get a hold of sensitive data. By glancing carefully over your shoulder as you or one of your team members enters information, hackers can get their hands on the preliminary data they need most – like login credentials or system passwords.

  • THEFT OF MOBILE DEVICES

Finally, it must be noted that not all attackers rely on unauthorized access via a hack to your network itself. Lost or stolen devices also represent a threat to your wireless network. If malicious actors get their hands on a company device, they could have an incredible amount of unrestricted access to company data and connected Cloud infrastructure. If stolen or lost devices are unencrypted, your network and data are in danger.

  1. What can you do to minimize the risks to your wireless network?

Alright, chances are, if you have an unsecured wireless network in your office that list of threats has left a lump in your throat. We get it, but hear us out. Cybersecurity is often talked about with a lot of doom and gloom – and it’s really unnecessary. Yes, the threats we outlined exist. However, so do efficient strategies for secure wireless networking. Protecting your company network and data doesn’t have to be impossible.

Check out these easy and sure-fire ways to boost your wireless network security:

  • Set a wireless password and don’t use the default

First things first, if your company wireless access points aren’t password protected, set a password on them now. Second, if your company’s wireless access points are password protected, but you’re using the default password that came with the device, change it now. Manufacturers default passwords are very easy to obtain with a quick Google search, meaning they provide limited protection at best. These default passwords are easily available to obtain online, and so provide only marginal protection.

Further, passwords should be changed on a routine basis and password choices should be varied and strategic. Your office should have password change policies and procedures on paper for easy access. You should also have a set schedule for changes and would benefit from making the routine password change a team activity to emphasize its importance.

  • Control and restrict network access

Your company should be making a specific effort to control unauthorized access to your network. Each piece of hardware that builds your network can be individually administered to restrict access control. You can find data on how to access these restriction features in your hardware’s user documents.

Be sure that only authorized access is permitted. You can also utilize a “Guest” Wi-Fi account which allows you to grant wireless access on a different and more highly secured wireless channel. The “Guest” account should still be password protected, but this separate channel will protect your internal company data from the risk of unauthorized access.

  • Make sure your network data and devices are encrypted

Encryption is incredibly important when it comes to keeping your network traffic secure. By encrypting your wireless data, you prevent any and all malicious actors from viewing it without authorization. In terms of wireless network encryption, your company has many protocols to choose from including:

  • Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP),
  • Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA), and
  • WPA2 to encrypt information being transmitted between wireless routers and devices.

WPA2 is currently the strongest encryption option available and provides the highest level of protection. While WEP and WPA are both still available, experts agree that relying on anything short of WPA2 protocols could leave your network open to exploitation.

Further, your company should also be sure that the stored data on company devices is fully encrypted. Once all this stored data is encrypted, the device becomes useless to thieves or attackers because they can only unencrypt the data with a specific PIN. Additionally, it’s also a good idea to configure devices to require login credentials before allowing any kind of access. Finally, when sharing and storing files with sensitive data, be sure to password protect or encrypt these files as an additional layer of security.

  • Keep your Service Set Identifier (SSID) on lockdown

Your company’s SSID is like a little flag that identifies your network. In order to prevent malicious outsiders from easily finding and accessing your wireless network, make sure your SSID isn’t public. By protecting your SSID, it will be much harder for potential hackers to find your network. Whatever you do, don’t leave your SSID as the default – change it to something unique which will help mitigate attackers from identifying the make and model of your router to exploit vulnerabilities.

  • Install not one but TWO firewalls

When it comes to firewalls, two is better than one. Consider installing a firewall directly on your wireless devices (a host-based firewall), as well as on your company network (a router or modem-based firewall). This double-layered protection will make it harder for malicious actors to access your network. Even if they’re able to slip past your network firewall, your devices will have an additional layer of protection.

  • Maintain and optimize antivirus software 

It’s not enough to just use antivirus software. Once it’s installed, make sure someone is responsible for managing and optimizing its use. Be sure the software is updated regularly and that patches are applied as necessary.

  • Keep file-sharing security tight

Simply put, when it’s not required, file-sharing between devices should be disabled when not needed. Additionally, file-sharing should only occur on a secure wireless network – never on a public one. Your best bet is to create a separate directory for file-sharing and restrict access to all other directories. Finally, as mentioned, any files being shared should password protected for additional protection.

  • Be sure wireless software is kept patched and updated

Your wireless software should also be managed and monitored. Manufacturers often release software updates and patches for a device’s software and firmware. Be sure to stay on top of updates and patches to ensure vulnerabilities are addressed before they become a problem.

  • Implement a virtual private network

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are becoming an increasingly popular choice for secure wireless networking among business professionals. Simply put, a VPN allows employees a secure connection to the company network when away from the office. VPNs encrypt connections at all end-points and deflect any traffic that is not properly encrypted.

  1. How Can You Balance Secure Wireless Networking with Your Already Busy Schedule?

The bottom line is that even with the help of technology, businesses today have their hands full. IT maintenance, optimization, and network security can be difficult to balance with your team’s critical business tasks. So, what’s a professional to do? You know you need to secure your wireless network to protect your company’s continuity, but you also can’t put the brakes on core business responsibilities to try and adequately secure your network at all end-points.

That’s why so many business professionals today are seeking out guidance and support from an IT services consultant. Industry experts can provide additional information, resources, and support to assist in securing your wireless network. A professional IT consultant for secure wireless networking has the experience and expertise to look at your network from above and determine a comprehensive plan for protection and risk mitigation.

This way, your company gets the best of both worlds. You and your team stay focused on business development while the professionals work diligently to keep your network data secure. You get peace of mind, knowing your company data and network are protected and that you have an eagle-eyed IT professional in your corner.

Choosing a Partner: Strategies for Selecting a Professional Secure Wireless Networking Provider

If you’ve come to the conclusion that you may need some outsourced support from an IT consultant, be sure to use this guide on risks and strategies as a starting point. Develop an idea of your weak spots and go in with at least a rough plan for the kind of secure wireless networking services you need. Put together questions and concerns you have ahead of time so you’ll be able to explain exactly what you need.

Also, be sure to compare providers and determine who can offer you the most business value. Find an IT services consultant who is willing to customize their service offerings and cater specifically to your secure wireless networking needs. Additionally, find an IT professional who is willing to share their experience and expertise with you and your team in hopes of making them stronger links in the network security chain.

When in doubt, reach out to potential providers for an initial consultation. Secure wireless networking can seem like a lot of tedious and overwhelming work, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes a one-on-one conversation with an industry professional can help lessen the initial burden of fear and avoidance. Reach out and explain your concerns to a professional and watch how quickly you feel at ease.

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