Is your office WiFi network as secure as your traditional wired office network? Put plainly, how confident are you that your business data is protected from hackers? If your business uses a WiFi network, you may be more vulnerable than you think.
The vast majority of businesses use a WiFi network because they’re scalable and flexible. Having WiFi means individual employees can connect their smartphones, laptops, and tablets to the network as needed without a physical connection. This gives staff greater mobility within the office and allows them to be more productive. However, your wireless network can also be a weakness when it comes to protecting your business data. How can you secure your office WiFi network? First, know the threats.
What Are the Top Threats to WiFi Security?
Business wireless networks are relatively easy to set up, but they require more security than the average home network. Your business data is critical to your company’s profitability and viability, and you must take care to protect it from outside attacks, as well as internal vulnerabilities.
When Lieberman Technologies audits business networks, we look at two main sources of threats: interior and exterior. Exterior threats to your network come from non-employees:
- People at the coffee shop next door trying to use your WiFi to download pirated software
- A visitor to the office next door that needs WiFi access but can’t find that company’s guest WiFi network
- A person parked in the parking lot trying to see what kinds of things they can find on open WiFi networks
- Brute force attacks from malware bots (yes, those are industry terms, not from a sci-fi movie)
- Social engineering, like a phone call to the front desk from an impostor saying, “I’m in the conference room, and I can’t access the WiFi. What’s the password?”
These external threats can be innocent or malicious, but they can all affect an unprotected network. Even if you don’t think your employee data is sensitive, your customer information is. External operators can try to gather information or simply wreck your computer data for ransom or for fun.
Accidental Security Breaches and Other Internal Network Threats
No one wants to be the person who caused a loss of company data, people losing their jobs, or the business going viral for the wrong reasons. However, the fact is that most internal network security problems aren’t caused by angry employees, corporate spies, or AI turning evil and taking over the company. Many times the internal network security breach happens on accident when someone:
- Falls victim to a phishing email and gives away a username and a password
- Inserts an infected flash drive that spreads malware to the network
- Opens an infected file that was emailed or downloaded from a trustworthy source
- Accidentally shares confidential information in the background of an Instagram post
- Leaves a laptop open at a coffee shop while it’s hooked into the business network
- Loses their phone with important client data or business information
- Includes customer-sensitive information like social security numbers in an email attachment
Most of your employees wouldn’t knowingly or maliciously expose company information, but these types of things happen to companies regularly. Device portability and minimal WiFi security can make these scenarios all too real for any business.
Boosting Your Office WiFi Security
Making your office WiFi network more secure takes a little effort, but the protection it provides for your business data is worth it. Here are some steps you can take:
- Have two WiFi networks.
One for staff and one for guests. A guest WiFi connection will allow visitors to use WiFi while they are in your office without accessing company data or introducing malware.
- Change the default password for your WiFi router.
Router manufacturers ship equipment with default passwords to help you set it up the first time. In fact, you can search a database of these default passwords by simply knowing the manufacturer. Change the default to something secure, complicated, and private to your business.
- Use a VPN.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) use security techniques such as encryption to keep traffic on a network private.
- Use WPA2 encryption.
WiFi Protected Access II, or WPA2, allows encrypted traffic to flow between an access point and connected devices. (Coming soon: WPA3!)
- Physically secure your equipment.
Protect your Ethernet ports by making sure your router is in a secured location, such as a locked server room.
- Keep up with patches and updates.
Manufacturers regularly update firmware and issue security patches in response to known vulnerabilities and threats. Triggering these updates as they become available—even if they require a reboot of your network—will go a long way toward making your network more secure.
Sidenote: If you’re curious about home WiFi security, you can read more about it here.
How To Stay Protected from Network Security Vulnerabilities
The cost of rebuilding after a fire is much greater than buying a good sprinkler system. Likewise, the cost of setting up a good security protocol for your business network is a lot less than rescuing your business from a data hack or a malware outbreak. Protecting your office WiFi is a key part of strong cybersecurity and one that you cannot ignore.
Keeping your business data safe takes much more than a fire-proof file cabinet, a strong door lock, and a security camera. The security of data traffic flowing into and out of your network is critical, particularly if you are using a wireless network in addition to your wired network. Ongoing security protection, however, can be overwhelming. Many small and midsize businesses stay on top of this issue by working with an IT company to focus continually on internal and external threats.
Knowing your customer data is safe and that your customers can trust your business is an incredible asset. Working with an IT service provider can help you to build that asset.