Everyone knows that in today's world we have never been so connected. The Internet is a part of most of our lives at work and at play every day. Indeed ask most teenagers and they will consider the Internet as being almost as important as the air that they breathe!
So I was not surprised to read a new survey from iPass that suggested in the UK there is one WiFi hotspot for every 11 people, and worldwide there is one for every 150.
Just go into your local restaurant or coffee shop, gym or even library, and chances are there will be a free WiFi sign indicating connectivity for anyone who wants to log on.
The report suggests that over the next four years, global hotspot numbers will grow to more than 340 million, the equivalent of one WiFi hotspot for every 20 people on earth. And while Europe currently has the most dense WiFi coverage, Asia will overtake it by 2018, according to the report.
But all this access to open and free WiFi presents serious security challenges for the hard-pressed security teams in the companies we work for. The lure of a 'Free WiFi' sign is often enough to have business people whipping out their iPads to check their emails without much thought about how secure the connection might be.
The problem is that when we get back to the office we readily connect back onto the corporate network unaware if there has been any compromise to our mobile devices while away.
In this era of increased mobility of employees, it is the security teams who often have to deal with the security implications. Unfortunately, given the 1 million shortage of security experts today, most companies struggle to find and recruit enough cybersecurity expertise in-house and careless surfing of the web is a challenge they can well do without.
Cyber criminals, on the other hand, are well resourced and professional and recognise that employees are often a company's weakest link so target them to gain access to the corporate network. They also know that our guard is often down when we are in a relaxed environment like the local coffee shop and so they know that we might do things that we otherwise would not do normally to compromise our security.
Of course we do not deliberately set out to compromise our company's network security, but employees must learn to avoid using unsecured WiFi networks, especially for work-related tasks, and ensuring that they adhere to their companies' IT policies at all times.
Similarly businesses must realize that whatever their security policies say, and whatever endpoint security products they invest in, attackers will find the weakest link and so it's not a matter of if they get attacked, but when and defenders need to focus on setting their security accordingly. To enable them best to deal with this increased risk it is critical they have full visibility across their network in order to spot unusual activities or behavior and deal with it before it spreads to vital data and applications.
In the meantime, we all need to do our bit and help the security team by being careful about how we use our devices and if the WiFi is unsecure make sure we use a VPN or similar form of encryption to minimize the risk.