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Issue 50 | March 2018

LIANSWERS

This newsletter includes information to help lawyers reduce the likelihood of being sued for malpractice. The material presented is not intended to establish, report, or create the standard of care for lawyers. The articles do not represent a complete analysis of the topics presented, and readers should conduct their own appropriate legal research.
You get what you pay for: the risks of free Wi-Fi

You are away from your office. At a coffee shop perhaps, or a hotel or an airport, and decide to do some work using the free WiFi connection. Being in the insurance business, we think about risk in most everything we do. Connecting to free WiFi may present risk not offset by the convenience the free service offers.

Free WiFi is not risk-free. Public hot spots often lack encryption. Moreover, there are cases where hackers have set up their own computer to mimic the local free network (how do you know whether the legitimate free network at your coffee shop is “Joes Coffee” or “Joe Coffee”?).

Free hot spots are open networks, so what one does on that network is vulnerable to being overheard. No different from someone standing outside an office door listening to the occupants or someone going through paper garbage bins after office hours. Data sent over an open network is at risk of capture by a third party.

There are ways to minimize this risk. At NSBS/LIANS, we have a virtual private network (VPN) which protects data when we login from outside the office. If you do a lot of business travel, you, or your firm, should consider setting up a VPN or similar measure to reduce the risk of using an open network.

If you want to eliminate the risk, and you do not have a VPN or something similar, do not use an open network. Of course, this is not to say that paying to use the hotel or airport password protected public network is a lot safer. However, we can only speak to the risk using an open network presents.