If you’re always on the move, chances are you’ve had occasion to jump onto a Wi-Fi network at an airport, café, health club, hotel, or other venue. While this can make getting work done more convenient, Wi-Fi networks can put any data you transmit or receive online at risk. Even if your tablet is encrypted, your data is vulnerable as soon as you connect to the Internet through a Wi-Fi network.
The best solution is to make sure all your Internet connections go through a virtual private network (VPN). Android tablets offer built-in VPN support in your network settings, so you can enter your VPN address once and never worry about it again.
Even if you’re using public Wi-Fi with no security, connecting through a VPN pushes all the traffic you send and receive—such as instant messages, e-mails, pdf files, passwords, and web sites—through an encrypted tunnel.
If your employer doesn’t provide you with a VPN connection, you can set up a VPN server at home or pay for a hosted service. Free services, such as MobileVPN.net or Hotspot Shield, typically give you a few hours of access at a time and are perfect for occasional use.
If you can’t access the Internet through a VPN, the next best thing is to only go online through a 3G or 4G network. In addition to being able to access the Internet from anywhere, most cell service providers encrypt all traffic that goes between your device and their cell towers.
When 3G or 4G isn’t an option, you can still gain a degree of protection if the Wi-Fi network you’re on uses WPA/WPA2-Enterprise security with 802.1X authentication. Many of the larger hotspot networks, like T-Mobile and iBahn, use these advanced security protocols.
Be careful about Wi-Fi networks that you think are secure. Networks that use WEP or WPA/WPA2-Personal (PSK) security leave your data vulnerable to anyone else who happens to be on the same network.
If you absolutely have to access a Wi-Fi network that has limited security—or no security at all—here are a few things you can do to protect your data.
1. Limit Your Access to Secure Sites
Make sure any web sites you visit are secured with SSL encryption. The url will begin with “https://” instead of “http://” and you should see a padlock or other security icon on the bottom of your browser window.
2. Encrypt Your E-mail
If you use local client on your device instead of a web site to check your email, see if you can set SSL encryption for both the incoming (POP3 or IMAP) and outgoing (SMTP) servers.
3. Encrypt Your Social Media
To encrypt your Facebook and Twitter sessions, go into your account settings and choose “Always use https.”
4. Encrypt Your Google Searches
Do all your searching at encrypted.google.com.
Hopefully, a few precautions will protect your critical business data while you’re enjoying your next latté. Let us know how these security tips work for you, or if you have any others you’d like to share.