Coworking offices give you an affordable alternative to renting your own space. You keep your costs low, network with other entrepreneurs and gain access to a productive environment. DeskMag predicts that the number of global coworking spaces will reach 10,100 in 2016 and serve 735,000 people.
If you don't have one of these businesses near you currently, you have a good chance of seeing one in the next few years. Before you run off to sign up for a membership, you have to understand the data security risks inherent in coworking environments and how to mitigate them.
Data Risks in Coworking Spaces
Your company and client data form the keystone of your operations, but you put it in danger when you connect to the Wi-Fi at these locations. You may not know what network security measures exist, if any, and you may not have appropriate protection on your devices. Small and medium businesses bear the brunt of 62 percent of cyber attacks, according to Property Casualty 360. Hackers want access to valuable data, such as customer records, and SMBs often fail to budget for cyber security.
Coworking spaces like Work Better know how vital your data is to the work that you do. As such, we have insured that each private office is in its own private network and have top web security teams audit and strengthen our network for our members.
How Hackers Gain Access in Coworking Offices
Hackers have several ways to exploit coworking vulnerabilities to compromise your devices. Sometimes you leave an open doormat to your laptop if you leave file sharing on when you connect to the public network. The hacker just connects to the same network and looks for shared folders. They can also set up a spoofed network designed to intercept traffic intended for the office connection.
You can also fall victim to Wi-Fi sniffing, which is a technique hackers use to examine the data transferred over public networks. They can pick up everything from your usernames and passwords to your browser history. Malicious intruders can also gain access to your system by loading malware onto it. They may use the information obtained from sniffing to get the application onto your system, use a compromised device in the space for phishing or physically install it while you aren't paying attention.
Securing Your Data
You don't have to avoid coworking spaces entirely. After you take a few steps to secure your data and devices, you put yourself in a much better position to prevent malicious attacks. First, follow this checklist to cover network security basics:
- Update your operating system, web browsers and other applications.
- Disable automatic connections to available Wi-Fi networks.
- Use the public network configuration when connecting to the coworking space's network, as this setting disables file and folder sharing.
- Use firewalls, network activity monitors and other security software.
- Create strong passwords and change them frequently. Enable two-step authentication when available for your business-critical accounts.
- Maintain physical control over your devices. Lost, stolen or unattended devices create vulnerability points.
You have a few more advanced options designed to limit your cyber risk profile. Open networks lack encryption, but once you reach an encrypted site, Wi-Fi sniffing no longer sees your actions. Hackers know the place you went to, but they're typically unable to sniff data past that point. Also, a browser extension called HTTPS Everywhere seeks out encrypted pages so you can browse the internet in relative safety. Another way to add encryption to your activities and thwart hackers comes from virtual private networks (VPN). A VPN makes it impossible for cyber attackers to see what you're doing, as you run your network connection through the service provider.