Business owners are required to fill a number of roles, from sales manager to accountant to operations director. The most challenging role to step into for a business owner might be IT director, with quickly-changing technology and a limited budget. As the importance of wireless in a business grows, many business owners find it beneficial to switch their WiFi management to WiFi as a Service.
The Importance of Secure WiFi
Guests entering your business expect to have access to WiFi. Whether it’s a retail store, in which a customer will want to check prices and reviews online for a product, or a corporate setting, in which a client might be checking their email while sitting in your waiting area, WiFi is an essential business offering.
Offering WiFi comes with formidable risks. You may have invested in extensive training to help your employees navigate WiFi safely, but you have none of the same influence over customers or guests in your building. You’ll need to have detailed policies for allowable WiFi usage and use filters to block any potentially risky sites. Guests can compromise your network in a number of ways, from mistaken copyright infringement to accidentally downloading malware or ransomware.
With the right security strategy, you can protect your company from phishing emails, malware downloads, or man-in-the-middle attacks.
Steps to Securing Your WiFi
If you’re going to offer WiFi, you can’t treat security surrounding it as an afterthought. Implement the following steps to create a secure network:
Segment the network: Your visitors should not be able to access the same areas of the network that your employees are using. Your guest network and internal network should be segmented, preventing guests from viewing confidential files or network assets. A network firewall or a separate virtual local area network (VLAN) plus software firewalls should protect workstations and servers from guest network traffic. The other benefit of taking this step is the ability to limit the damage if a cyber attack is detected on a segment of the network.
Use complex passwords: Passwords should include letters, numbers, and special characters, and they should be changed often. You should also have a frequently-changing service set identification (SSID) that is clearly named for your business. The risk of not attending to these security measures is most likely a man-in-the-middle attack.
Update firmware: Firmware updates are critical because they fix vulnerabilities that could be easily exploitable by hackers to gain access to your network or devices. Have policies in place that require timely firmware updates and have monthly checks to verify that all devices have been updated.
Wireless signals require encrypting: Make it easy for guests to access your WiFi network, but make it challenging for hackers to spy on your guests utilizing the network. Use WPA2/WPA3 encryption. If your equipment won’t support this level of encryption, it’s time to upgrade, or at least buy a modern router that will support WPA3 encryption. Otherwise, you should be prepared for your bandwidth to be stolen.
Filter content: Add controls to limit the types of content that are accessed on your network, from adult content to anything that is immoral or unethical. This type of filtering solution also protects your network from guests that may mistakenly download malware or ransomware. You might consider a web-based filter because it doesn’t require any additional hardware for purchase, and it can be configured and managed remotely.
The Case for WiFi as a Service
While it’s not a secret that public WiFi is full of security vulnerabilities, there’s an option that can go a long way to give you peace of mind. WiFi as a Service comes with some inherent features that make it far more secure than managing your WiFi in-house:
Scheduled hardware replacement: In a typical IT setting, most equipment doesn’t get replaced as often as it should. It’s an understandable problem because it seems like it would be a good idea to try to squeeze another year or two out of a laptop or desktop. That same type of thinking may be applied to WiFi hardware, but it’s not as beneficial. Besides the dust, heat and humidity, as well as power surges, spikes and sags, your WiFi needs to be upgraded about every four years in order to keep from stretching it beyond the intended life. This prevents downtime and allows you to budget for upgrades.
Software updates: WiFi as a Service will apply ongoing software updates that boost performance and address any potential vulnerabilities. Just as you need to apply software updates to your laptop or desktop, WiFi networking software requires updating, and WiFi as a Service ensures it’s done automatically.
Managed network: Even if your company has, fully-staffed IT, these departments are always being tasked with more and more responsibilities. Staying on top of WiFi security is particularly daunting for busy IT teams. WiFi as a Service gives you dedicated network managers to ensure network security is covered, and this option is consistently more cost-effective than hiring an expert in WiFi network infrastructure for each location.
WiFi design: Despite what you’re told on wireless router packaging, designing a wireless network may not be simple. You need a tailored solution for your business purposes, and a WiFi as a Service provider delivers a design that takes in to account your device types, application usage, environment interference and walls to create a high-performance network.
Customizable dashboard: Depending on the WiFi as a Service provider you select, you’ll likely have access to a centralized dashboard that keeps you up to date on network performance and any potential threats. You’ll also have access to data and analytics on your network.
Running a business requires you to wear a lot of hats. Fortunately, WiFi network manager isn’t one of them. Contact us at Copper State Communications to learn more about WiFi as a Service and the benefits it can offer your company.