Using Free Wi-Fi at Your Event? 3 Reasons Why This is a Bad Idea
Jun 04, 2012 by DeDe Mulligan

free wi fiWireless Internet connections at meetings have gone from a "nice to have" to a "must have" for participants because they wish to remain connected to their office and family, even when they are hundreds of miles away from them. With the increased amount of open Wi-Fi "hotspots" in hotels and conference centers, attendees may connect to them without realizing the possible risks of doing so.

Lets explain some of the potential risks of connecting to an open Wi-Fi network from the participants point of view and explain what corporate event planners can do to minimize these risks – think wireless network array rental
 
What is the Risk?
 
A Wi-Fi network is, simply put, a data transmission system. Free Wi-Fi is accessible to anyone. Many hotels and conference centers require a passcode or your hotel room number. However, because the network is open to all hotel guests, data transmitted through the Wi-Fi network can possibly be intercepted by any computer user connected to the network. Don't ever equate FREE for SECURE. 
 
What about Privacy?
 
Again, the data you transmit through an open Wi-Fi network may be accessed by others. It’s not secure! User ids, passwords and other confidential data are at potential risk in this environment. 
 
How Does This Happen? 
 
Data is sent over the Internet in packets (think bundled file folders). For example, e-mail messages or login information, is constructed from several packets, pushed through the bandwidth together. If you want to log-in at your e-mail account over an unsecured connection, the data is not encrypted, so anyone connected to the network at that time could potentially access your log-in information. 
 
What Should Attendees Do To Prevent This?
  • When you see a free hotspot, check the source. You can see if the source is a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. These can be suspicious, especially when they’re called “Free Wi-Fi” or “Free hotspot”.
     
  • Certify that you are on the right Wi-Fi network for the conference. Currently, “Twin” networks are becoming increasingly popular at large events or venues for phishing attacks. Their address will be very close to the right connection. Be aware, and if you have any doubt, flag down your event organizer. 
     
  • Password protect all login information, or better yet use encryption.
     
  • Use Secure Socket Layer (SSL)  for both incoming and outgoing e-mail messages.
     
  • Always keep your firewall and security software up-to-date, and turn off file and printer sharing.
     
  • Password protect your laptop and mobile devices. 
What Should Event Organizers Do?
  • Make sure you are on a secure and robust Wi-Fi network. Having experts available to assess your security risk and help determine the best network configuration is the most prudent course of action. Renting a Wi-Fi network array should help in both areas, especially with a large number of attendees at your conference. 
     
  • Communicate the right network name and credentials to your attendees. Do this before the conference and several times during the event.
     
  • Have your AV and IT partners, monitor suspicious Wi-Fi network activity and act to stop it. Ask them to communicate any breeches to you and your team. 
     
  • Remember: Providing a properly secured and fast Wi-Fi network to your attendees is as important as great speakers or fantastic educational content. Don't let a slow or unsecure network bring your conference to a halt!
     

AV Event Solutions, a California meeting equipment provider, has Wi-Fi boosters available to make your network secure and robust! When renting audio visual equipment, think of them for the total AV and network solution! 

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