I recently attended several conferences where I noticed that advisors’ adoption level of all sorts of tablet devices is doing quite well. At any given session, I noticed a fair number of advisors using tablets to take notes, check email or access websites. I began to wonder, then worry: Are we all taking the necessary steps to protect our access credentials, our passwords and, ultimately, the information we retrieve and send while using wireless connections? Did the attendees in that crowded downtown hotel even think about security and data privacy at all? The reality is that not all wireless connections share the same level of security. In fact, some don’t have any security at all. When you use wireless networks, it is important to at least understand the level of security they offer, which should have a direct influence on what information you are willing to transmit using that connection.
Some of the most secure wireless networks are offered by large communication companies like Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. Your device might already have the capabilities built into it to connect to one of these networks. Or you could purchase a small wireless modem and create your own mobile hotspot. The benefits, of course, with using the major wireless carrier networks are that you are leveraging their security infrastructure, and you have access to their support and their users’ experience. This might be most attractive to someone who is not very technology savvy or simply doesn’t want to worry about understanding the level of security of various local wireless networks at hotels and coffee shops. One of the challenges though is that the costs could get fairly expensive depending on how much data you use and your location (domestic versus international).
Perhaps the most common wireless network used by advisors while on the road is a Wi-Fi-based network. The first point to recognize is that not all Wi-Fi networks are created equal; they don’t all have the same level of security or present the same risks. It is important to make sure that your device is not set up to automatically connect to any available Wi-Fi networks. It is understandable to have this feature turned on for known, trusted networks, but not just any network available. Furthermore, Wi-Fi networks that offer some level of security and require a password to connect are always good initial signs of trustworthy networks, compared with being listed as unsecured. Generally, the password is provided by your hotel, conference host or another source. At least this tells you that not everyone and anyone can use the network. While you are using this Wi-Fi network, be sure to connect using HTTPS and SSL before accessing any private information like email and financial websites.