Wi-Fi Expert Offers Advice to Business Travelers on iPass and Security
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Business travelers are increasingly able to work on the road thanks to nearly ubiquitous Internet connectivity hotspots.
Unfortunately, solutions like free Wi-Fi come with glaring problems to your security.
Thankfully, we had the pleasure of getting wisdom from Keith Waldorf who is iPass’ Vice President of Engineering.
Waldorf not only explained to TravelPulse the various steps one can take to have happy and, most importantly, secure business trips, he mentioned the value of iPass and how it’s offering a solution for connectivity to businesses around the world.
READ MORE: How Long Can Hotel Guests Go Without Wi-Fi?
It’s important to remain vigilant and cynical when on the road. Make sure you are using a VPN portal or solution like iPass if available.
As we found, so many free Wi-Fi spots offer the promise of instant access. But there are some steps you can take to ensure that you are keeping your vital information private and secure.
TravelPulse: Elaborate a bit on the inherent dangers of using free Wi-Fi on the go.
Keith Waldorf: Free Wi-Fi, even airport free Wi-Fi or the free Wi-Fi at your hotel, comes with numerous security risks and privacy erosions, ranging from man-in-the-middle attacks to identity spoofing and tracking by ISPs and other entities, just to name a few. Being completely safe on free Wi-Fi is never a given, especially in crowded venues like airports and hotels where anyone could gain access to your personal information.
TP: What are some general steps a mobile professional can use to lessen the dangers of free Wi-Fi?
KW: You can never be 100 percent safe on free Wi-Fi, but you can at least mitigate some of the inherent risks. The absolute best thing you can do on an untrusted, free Wi-Fi connection is use a VPN (Virtual Private Network), which allows you to route all of your online activity through a secure, private network. It’s essentially a tunnel, which gives you the security of a private connection even if you’re on free Wi-Fi. Short of using a VPN, I’d advocate for simple security measures like avoiding the use of services that require sensitive personal information when you are on free Wi-Fi. And, much like when traveling abroad, be aware of your environment. Even a simple Google search can reveal information about where you are staying, where you are going or where you have been.
TP: Explain a bit about iPass for our readers that have yet to use the service.
KW: iPass provides Internet connectivity for mobile professionals when they aren’t in their home office or area. We provide that connectivity by using a single set of credentials based on their device. We don't own Wi-Fi networks – we aggregate them and interconnect them into the authentication infrastructure in our software platform. Our partnerships with Comcast Xfinity, British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Time Warner Cable and others give us access to millions of hotspots. Altogether, we work with more than 160 different Wi-Fi service providers to provide our users with seamless Wi-Fi connectivity in and out of their home country or region.
TP: How might this differ or be more advantageous than, say, using a VPN from the company?
KW: Our last-mile VPN protects a user’s data between the user and a secure end-point on the Internet. A corporate VPN, on the other hand, is an end-to-end solution, meaning that it creates a VPN tunnel all the way back to the corporate firewall. If you have access to a corporate VPN, we definitely recommend using it. But the last-mile VPN is relevant for users in companies that don’t offer a (mobile) corporate VPN.
TP: Logging on to a Wi-Fi network from just about anywhere in more than 120 countries is a treasure for business travelers. What are the speeds these road warriors can expect with the service?
KW: Wi-Fi speeds vary tremendously, especially across the more than 120 countries in which we have networks, so it’s difficult to estimate the speeds users can expect. Compared to 3G/4G though, Wi-Fi is typically faster and better to use when accessing cloud-based applications, sharing large files, or even streaming video.
TP: Do you have any general advice for a business traveler who might need Internet on the go for their first corporate adventure? What are some things they should be on the look out for?
KW: In the event that free Wi-Fi is the only available connection, users should utilize a VPN as previously mentioned and take additional measures to safeguard their connection as much as possible. For example, ensuring that the URLs of the sites to which you are connecting start with "HTTPS" (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure), can help to keep information safe from hackers when browsing.
Also, be aware of rogue access points, which mimic a free Wi-Fi hotspot. When the user connects to these rogue access points, they are potentially exposing their personal and corporate data. There are various measures you can take to avoid falling prey to this kind of cyberattack, such as ensuring that the free Wi-Fi hotspot to which you are connecting requires adherence to a set of terms and conditions; for example, most free Wi-Fi at airports or restaurant chains will include clear terms of service.
And, of course, get your company to sign up for iPass. It’s a cost-effective alternative to incurring expensive roaming fees while abroad and a secure alternative to free Wi-Fi, which besides being unsecure, takes time to locate, among other inconveniences. iPass also offers inflight Wi-Fi, in addition to coverage in trains, airports, convention centers etc.
TP: Lastly, what are some things about Wi-Fi or iPass in general that you feel our readers would love to hear?
KW: Well, I think readers would be interested to know that more than 50 percent of their data goes over Wi-Fi at some point. And that number is only getting larger.
We offer global coverage and provide access to more than 53 million hotspots in more than 120 countries across the globe, which is certainly a great benefit to business travelers.
Additionally, we recently launched our iPass SmartConnect platform, which was a culmination of really hard work to capture valuable information about the quality of the user experience on Wi-Fi. The platform does a lot of real-time data analytics to understand the quality of a hotspot and whether it offers users an excellent or bad experience on a network. By creating real-time actionable events from all of this information, we can now connect users to the best network that fits their usage profile.
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