Smartphones and tablets have overtaken computers in popularity because of the way they enable you to live your life without interruption, rather than around your desk at home or in the office. With mobile internet, email, social networking and cloud storage, you can carry out most of the tasks that you can on a computer … but in a café, out shopping, in the park, working away from the office or anywhere around or outside the house.
However, this high level of convenience is accompanied by higher levels of risk. Because mobile devices are so compact and portable, they are easier to lose or steal, leading to potential breaches to your personal and financial security or, at best, inconvenience. And because of where you can use your device, the risks from using it online can also be greater than those for your home or office-based computer.
Always remember that your device is not ‘just a phone’, but think of it as a computer, just needing different security rules.
The security risk associated with using public WiFi is that unauthorised people can intercept anything you are doing online. This could include capturing your passwords and reading private emails. This can happen if the connection between your device and the WiFi is not encrypted, or if someone creates a spoof hotspot which fools you into thinking that it is the legitimate one.
With an encrypted connection, you will be required to enter a ‘key’, which may look something like: 1A648C9FE2.
Alternatively, you may simply be prompted to log in to enable internet access. This will tell the operator that you are online in their café, hotel or pub. There is almost certainly no security through encryption.Unless you are using a secure web page, do not send or receive private information when using public WiFi.
Wherever possible, use well-known, commercial hotspot providers such as BT OpenZone or T-Mobile. Business people wishing to access their corporate network should use a secure, encrypted Virtual Private Network (VPN).