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August 14, 2017

Here's What You Need to Know About Mobile Hotspot Security

 As the Internet has become a critical part of business, commerce, and communication, the need for better connectivity has become more and more pressing. Thankfully, the development of hotspots means you can access the Internet from anywhere there’s a GSM network. But at a time when cybersecurity is a huge issue, do you know what hotspot security entails?

 The Growth of Mobile Hotspots

 The demand for Internet connectivity has never been greater. The Internet plays a key role in how companies conduct business, both internally and externally. The problem is that, as important as the Internet is, trying to connect outside of the home or office has always been a finicky proposition. Sure, there are coffee shops and other places of business that offer complimentary Wi-Fi to customers, but you never know what you’re going to get.

If your company’s employees are on the road and need to connect to the Internet to do business, the last thing you want is for them to have to search for an Internet connection that could possibly cost money and probably isn’t very secure.

 The underlying problem here is a lack of widespread Wi-Fi connectivity. Eventually, one would assume universal or national Wi-Fi would become a thing, but we’re still a few years away. Until that point, the next-best solution is for businesspeople to arm themselves with Wi-Fi hotspots.

 As tech blogger Anne Worner explains, “A mobile hotspot is a portable device or smartphone feature that provides Internet access on a variety of devices, including a laptop, smartphone, MP3 player, tablet, or portable gaming device. Mobile hotspots function in much the same way as USB modems; they rely on mobile broadband service from a cellular provider to provide 3G or 4G Internet access.”

 Today, many of the most popular smartphones have built-in hotspots that allow users to beam Internet to other devices anywhere they have a signal with their data provider. However, using a hotspot that’s native to a smartphone still isn’t a great choice. It can work in a pinch, but drains your smartphone battery and uses your data pretty rapidly.

“Hotspots also tend to support more devices and more security options than the hotspot mode on your phone,” Sascha Segan writes for PC Mag. “Most phones can link up to five devices; hotspots can handle ten or more, with better support for things like VPNs, parental controls, and port forwarding. If you're setting up a mobile office for a work group, a hotspot, not a phone, is what you want.”

 Today, unlocked mobile hotspots are more popular than ever. No longer do you have to pick a device based on a network. You’re free to choose the best mobile hotspot device and then access it via your preferred GSM network. This, among other things, has fueled tremendous growth in the mobile hotspot market. And while there isn’t a ton of up to date data on the subject, it’s clear that more growth is imminent.

 At the end of 2014, it was suggested there were more than 47.7 million public hotspots worldwide. France was the leader, having more hotspots than any other country, with the U.S. and the U.K. rounding out the top three.

 The same report suggested that, by the end of 2018, global hotspot numbers would top more than 340 million, or the equivalent of one hotspot for every 20 people on earth. However, since this growth won’t be evenly distributed, there will be an estimated one hotspot for every four people in the U.S. by the end of next year.

 3 Ways to Better Protect Mobile Hotspots

 With the rise in popularity of hotspots, and mobile devices that beam hotspots anywhere for anyone, security naturally becomes a major issue. What can IT departments around the country do to ensure their employees are staying safe while using this convenient technology? Here are some pointers and suggestions:

 1. Enable Strong Encryption

 The security features on mobile hotspots are getting better as the technology improves, but there’s still a lot left to be desired when you pull one of these devices out of the box. The biggest problem with the default security setup on most devices is that the encryption method may be set to an outdated standard, like WEP, or fail to have any encryption enabled at all.

 In order to provide as much protection as possible for the devices accessing the mobile hotspot, WPA2 should be enabled as the encryption method of choice. This is currently the safest choice.

 2. Change Passwords and IDs

 One thing you should do is change the default SSID – which is the network name for your wireless hotspot – to something totally random. Hackers actually have programs that use dictionary words and other commonly used character strings to make it easier to access hotspots. By switching up your hotspot’s SSID, you can greatly diminish your risk of being cracked via this method. Along these same lines, it’s also important that you create a strong password for your network. Again, you should never use dictionary words, as they’re easy to figure out with a basic hacking platform.

3. Protect the Device

 No matter how safe you make a mobile hotspot, there’s still a chance that a skilled hacker or cyber-criminal could penetrate it and get through to your laptop, tablet, or whatever device is online. So, in addition to securing the hotspot, you need to take the appropriate precautions on your device.

 A virtual private network (VPN) is always a smart choice, as it encrypts traffic and makes it much harder for hackers to get ahold of your data. You’d also be smart to turn on any firewall software you have and ensure your operating system is up to date.

 Setting Businesses Up for Success

 Mobile hotspots are something businesses can no longer watch from the outside looking in. In order to set your business up for success, some due diligence has to be done in this area. The key when investing in hotspots is to prioritize security above all else. Do that and you’ll be fine.

Edited by Alicia Young

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