What Are the Dangers of Using Unsecured WiFi?
By Shea Laverty
Setting up or connecting to an unsecured Wi-Fi connection may seem convenient, but that convenience comes at the cost of security. The risks are that much worse when using the connection for business purposes, considering the sensitivity of business data. Primarily, the risks of unsecured Wi-Fi have to do with data interception and network intrusion.
An unsecured Wi-Fi connection is one that utilizes no security encryption whatsoever. Encrypted Wi-Fi channels secure the data from interception, as no one can access any of the connected computers or the connection itself. Identifying an unsecured network is easy, as any secured network would ask for a valid password.
Login Information Interception
A major risk of connecting to an unsecured Wi-Fi connection comes from using services that require login information. Data transmitted over unsecured Wi-Fi can be intercepted by third parties. These third parties can extract your login information and passwords from this intercepted data and use it to fraudulently access your services. This can include online banking, email and other services that can be used to facilitate identity theft.
Sensitive Information Interception
The same interception risk for login info also applies to other data transmitted over an unsecured Wi-Fi connection. Information sent in instant messages, emails and other data-transmission tools can also be intercepted and put to illicit use. When transmitting sensitive corporate information, this can be an especially dangerous security risk.
If your company is operating an unsecured Wi-Fi, you also risk bandwidth theft. When others sign onto your network, the tasks they perform will consume a portion of the available bandwidth. Depending on how many people are already using your network legitimately and how many unauthorized users are connected, your users may experience lag. This can hurt productivity and create a serious inconvenience for your employees.
If you host unsecured Wi-Fi, an unauthorized user can put your network to illicit use. Illegal file transfers and downloads, the use of your network to disseminate viruses, and even using the network to procure child pornography or other illegal materials are all serious crimes. Since the perpetrator would be using your network, any investigation will lead back to your network. As such, your company may be liable for any penalties these crimes may incur, even when none of your legitimate users did the crimes.
Network Data Theft
Hosting unsecured Wi-Fi also endangers the data stored on your company's computers. Any unauthorized users will be able to access unsecured resources on your computer network, including the data on any connected computers. Without proper intrusion safeguards, sensitive corporate information can be stolen. Viruses and other malicious software can also be introduced to the network.