The Sentar IT department answers one of the most common questions they receive: Is a 4G connection safer than public Wi-Fi?

Teaser Image Source: Internet of Business

Source: Internet of Business

As we rely on our devices more and more for personal entertainment as well as business tasks, let’s answer one of the most common questions Sentar IT gets asked.

Is a 4G connection safer than public Wi-Fi?

Let’s be honest here…there is NO 100% safe surfing or connectivity for mobile devices, but with awareness and some education, you can minimize the risk factors. Most hotels, airports and public facilities are offering free Wi-Fi services for their customers. Also, most smartphone carriers have “hotspot” and even jetpack or My-Fi devices that allow you to connect a device and surf over your 4G cellular connection.

So, how do you choose the safest option when your cell provider charges for data use and public Wi-Fi is free?

4G connects to the cellular provider through an encrypted data channel. Although it can be hacked, it is far harder to compromise the encryption than to look for the low hanging fruit of public Wi-Fi, which is what the bad guys take into account.

Public Wi-Fi is the least safe way to connect as there are so many infrastructure questions we can’t answer concerning security. Without the encryption, we have no idea who is looking at those data packets whizzing around the ether.

BUT, using a multi-layered security approach will give you the most secure experience available.

The safest ways to surf in order of most secure to least is:

  1. Using a VPN over a cellular network or using a VPN over Wi-Fi
  2. Cellular only
  3. Wi-Fi only

First, NEVER connect to public Wi-Fi without a VPN connection, even if it is your own phone or laptop. There are many VPN apps like Nord, SurfShark, etc., that have free trials and a nominal cost to use after the trial period. Some of our users report good results with PIA VPN at $49 annually.

Second, here at Sentar, our laptops have Sophos Endpoint protection and the Sophos SSL VPN client installed. When you are on travel, our recommendation is to launch the hotspot on your smartphone and THEN connect with the Sophos SSL VPN client on your laptop before proceeding with your work. (If you have a GFE-imaged laptop, use your Cisco VPN connection.)

Lastly, the use of anti-malware/antivirus software, firewalls and VPN connections is vital on ANY mobile device. There are many security apps like Avast, Lookout or Sophos that scan for rogue apps, alert you to remote connections and all forms of nasties. VPN software creates an encrypted secure tunnel for all your information traveling over Wi-Fi, making your connection private. If you are using the Sophos MDM apps to receive Sentar email on your phone, you already have antivirus from the Sophos Mobile Security app that’s part of the suite.

Speaking of smartphones, there are extra steps you can take protect yourself and the data contained on the single most important device we carry nowadays.

First, protect your accounts by using unique and strong passwords for every account you create. Don’t repeat passwords, and if you need help remembering them all, you can use a password manager like LastPass or 1Password.  Create a single unique password to unlock your password manager, and it contains all the logins and passwords across all your accounts.

Next, turn off Lock screen notifications. Even sitting on a desk locked, your notifications can reveal a lot of personal information. There are easy instructions for android and iOS versions to disable notification alerts. You can even go granular and only give certain apps notification permissions. A quick google search for your mobile device can assist.

Also, think about locking your apps. App lockers can secure individual apps on the chance that someone else uses your phone (your spouse or kids). The locked app won’t open without passcode to run the app. You can add apps individually and control what anyone around your device can get into.

Finally, consider a burner phone app. A good burner phone app can create new phone numbers to use for dating or selling or buying items online. You wouldn’t want to give your personal phone number to someone you just met. Keep your private number private and reserved for family and friends.

Using the suggestions above can help keep you and your private data secure in an increasingly compromised digital world.

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