NSA Warning - Avoid Public Wi-Fi

The US National Security Agency (NSA) has warned of the risks of using public Wi-Fi and is offering advice to security teams looking for best practices to protect corporate networks and personal devices. These  recommendations offer system administrators fundamental advice to protect home workers, along with remote and mobile workforces. 

The guidance, which is intended for National Security System, Defense Department, and defense industrial base usersexplains how to identify vulnerable connections and protect common wireless technologies when working on public networks. The first best practice, according to NSA, is to simply avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi at all. 

Instead, it’s best to connect using personal or corporately-owned hotspots, just not open Wi-Fi hotspots. Hotspots should feature strong authentication and encryption, too, according to the guidance.  “Telework has become an essential component of business, and many people are teleworking from home or during travel. While the owners of home networks can take steps to secure those networks, it can be difficult to ensure public networks are secure.

“Protecting personal and corporate data is essential at all times, but especially when teleworking in public settings....  to ensure data, devices, and login credentials remain secure and uncompromised, cyber security is a crucial priority for users and businesses.... This includes identifying higher-risk public networks and implementing security best practices while in public settings, whether connecting laptops, tablets, mobile phones, wearable accessories, or other devices with the ability to connect to the Internet. says the NSA.

Accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots may be convenient, but according to the NSA advice public Wi-Fi is often not configured securely. But when it can’t be avoided, work on a public Wi-Fi network should be conducted over a corporate-provided virtual private network, or VPN.

Using a VPN allows communications to be encrypted, meaning that data going across public Wi-Fi will be less vulnerable. Remote users are also advised to use Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure - https:// - websites whenever possible.

According to the NSA guidance:

  • Laptop users should turn off the device file and printer sharing features on public networks.
  • Users should avoid entering confidential passwords, conduct sensitive conversations.
  • Never accessing personal data like bank and medical information. 
  • Online shopping and other financial transactions should be avoided.
  • Leaving devices unattended in public settings is also a bad idea. 
  • Devices should be updated with the latest patches and secured through multi-factor authentication whenever possible. 

NSA Also  Points Out The Risks Of Using Bluetooth

  • Malicious actors can find active Bluetooth signals and potentially gain access to information about devices it finds in its scans. That information can then be used to compromise a device.
  • The agency advises users to disable Bluetooth and make sure it’s not discoverable in public settings due to this and other cyber risks.
  • Users should never accept Bluetooth pairing attempts they didn’t initiate. 
  • Turn off any device-to-device data transfers, like the kind that allow for contactless payment. 

The NSA say it’s best to disable Bluetooth not in use just in case and says users should also make sure not to bring a device near other unknown electronic devices because it might trigger automatic communication and never to use it to communicate passwords or sensitive data.

Defense.gov      DefenseOne:    NextGov:     Threatpost:      Enterprise Times:       :

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