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What's the best way to secure Wi-Fi access for mobile employees?

Employees who work on-the-go rely on Wi-Fi access to get work done, but are those connections secure? Expert Kevin Beaver explains how to achieve Wi-Fi access security success.

My company has a number of on-the-go workers who require Wi-Fi access to work, but insecure (or even malicious) free networks are a constant concern. What are the best ways to reduce the risk posed by insecure Wi-Fi networks and ensure my employees' devices (and my company's data) remains secure?

This is a considerable challenge for most businesses with mobile employees. The canned answer used to be, "Just tell people to not connect to any non-corporate Wi-Fi network." Just like telling people not to use social media while at work, this didn't turn out so well. An enterprise can have all the policies you can imagine combined with all the user training and awareness programs in the world, yet people are still going to connect to random wireless networks while they're away from the office.

In many cases, users will connect to legitimate wireless networks in coffee shops, hotels, airplanes and even at home with these newer wireless services. But how are they to know what's legitimate and what's safe? They can't -- no one really can, not even IT professionals.

One of the best things you can do is set your users -- and your business -- up for Wi-Fi security success by ensuring that employee laptops, computers and other mobile devices are properly secured. This includes using good malware protection, personal firewall software or a host-based intrusion prevention system, and current patches across all software -- not just the OS. I know it sounds a bit obvious, but of the countless of mobile systems I've seen, many don't have one iota of security. They're running free antimalware (or none at all) and have no personal firewall software, and their third-party software, such as Adobe Reader and Java, has never been updated. That's where a huge part of the problem is.

While you're not going to be able to protect every system all the time, you can eliminate the 20% of the flaws that are creating 80% of the security problems by following these security best practices. Another great way to set everyone up for success is to provide -- or pay for -- personal hotspot service via their cell phones. Where 4G+ signals are available, it's often faster than Wi-Fi and can offer much more security.

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SearchSecurity expert Kevin Beaver is ready to answer your enterprise security questions -- submit them now! (All questions are anonymous.)

Next Steps

Read our introduction to wireless security and uncover lessons learned from the TJX breach on wireless network security.

This was last published in September 2014

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How does your organization deal with insecure Wi-Fi for mobile employees?
- Centralized control for application access with a robust AAA solution (Authentication, Authorization & Accounting)
- DLP (Data leakage protection)
- ISMS audits

These are some of the security tools being used popularly by enterprises.