How To Stay Secure When Using Public Wi-Fi

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As an attorney, your client data is under constant threat from hackers. That’s why it’s important that you avoid using public Wi-Fi when communicating with clients or accessing their information whenever possible. However, there may be times when you need to use public Wi-Fi to access email or other data under emergency circumstances. Here are a few tips for staying secure when you need to use public Wi-Fi.

  1. Use A VPN. Using a virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to mitigate the risks of using public Wi-Fi. Using a VPN you can access a secure online network before venturing onto the internet so that it is difficult for other users on the same public Wi-Fi hotspot to access your private data. That VPN acts as a firewall between the internet with potential hackers and the data on your device.
  2. Don’t store client data on your devices. Storing your data in the cloud is your best defense against hackers. Hackers who use ransomware depend on accessing your sensitive files stored locally on your device. They secretly encrypt your locally stored files, then charge you ransom to unlock them. When you’re data is stored in the cloud, there is no sensitive data for hackers to access on your laptop or other device.
  3. Use semi-public Wi-Fi. When you’re in a pinch and need access to the internet while traveling, consider using semi-public Wi-Fi hotspots that require a password. For example, many coffee shops require a password before accessing their Wi-Fi hotspots, and this is a lot better than a public Wi-Fi hotspot that has no password protection.
  4. Lock your files. If you must store some sensitive data on your laptop or smartphone, lock it with a password. Even if a hacker accesses your device through a public Wi-Fi network, they will face another obstacle if they need a password to access your files.
  5. Use only briefly. If you must use a public Wi-Fi hotspot, use it only for what you need such as sending a quick email or searching the internet for a few moments. Don’t linger. The longer you’re on a public Wi-Fi hotspot, the more vulnerable you become to hackers accessing your private data.
  6. Turn off sharing. Go to your network settings and turn “file sharing” to “off.” Also, turn on your firewall and tweak your settings so that others using the public network cannot access your files. If you’re using a smartphone turn off your “airdrop” settings. You don’t want strangers dropping your messages or other data.
  7. Turn off “automatically connect.” Some devices will automatically reconnect to any network you’ve used in the past—turn this feature off. You should also completely log off any service you’ve accessed while on the public network such as Gmail or Facebook.
  8. Consider changing your passwords. To be extra cautious, consider changing your passwords once you get access to a secure network just in case someone sniffed out your password on the public network. Better safe than sorry.

It’s better to avoid using public Wi-Fi, if at all possible, but in those cases of emergency, utilize your best security practices to keep sensitive data safe.

By |September 18th, 2017|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Directors of Chicago-based Community Activism Law Alliance and on the Board of Directors of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.