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Is Your Insurance Agency’s Wi-Fi Secure?

The world is becoming wireless! But with that are new risks. If you have business Wi-Fi but rarely update your malware, virus, and firewall software, you may be in for a nasty surprise. Wireless Internet is vulnerable to hacking and, with that, your personal and business information.

Fortunately, securing your Internet connection is possible if you find holes in your network. You may want a good IT contractor to review network security, but there are steps you can take on your own. Here is why you should assess Wi-Fi security and what to do if you find it lacking.


Why Worry?

Why should you worry about Wi-Fi security in the first place? Hackers can access your technology and data through your Wi-Fi router if you leave it vulnerable. It requires security oversight like anything else; you would never leave your agency office unlocked, and likewise, you should not leave your Wi-Fi open.

When your Wi-Fi is not secure, you face these risks:

  • Piggybacking: Piggybacking involves a hacker using another user’s wireless Internet access without their knowledge or permission. Hackers can do this through any wireless device, including laptops, mobile phones, and tablets. Many access your Wi-Fi as far as 100 feet away. While on your network, they may access data, steal sensitive information, monitor your web use and traffic, or even conduct illegal activities.
  • Data security breaches: Security breaches [put the link to “What to do in case of Cyber breach” article on “Security breaches”—if it’s published] are unsettling and expose you to legal risk. Unfortunately, you are at risk if you do not secure Wi-Fi correctly. Hackers may breach data by piggybacking on your Wi-Fi, and sometimes, they access your system through trial-and-error, especially if you use familiar common knowledge passwords. If they cannot access your data through these means, they may send an employee a phishing email that convinces them to send personal or business information to an unscrupulous source.
  • Virus, malware, and other bugs: Unsecured Wi-Fi is a great way to send malicious software into your system. Malware especially is a threat. It can damage your computer systems and collect data to send to a hacker. Once infected, these threats are difficult to remove from your system and may require intervention from a skilled IT professional.

Cybercriminals often focus on a small business because they figure you do not have the IT support to fight them back. You can separate them from this notion by being more knowledgeable about network security.


Six Wi-Fi Security Warning Signs

If someone hacked your router, you might encounter these irregularities:


Unable to Log Into Your Router

Your Internet provider or IT specialist likely provided log-in information for your router. This access allows you to adjust settings and see who is online. When you first set up your wireless access, you receive a default password which you should change—but not everyone remembers to do so.

If the credentials you created or your IT professional assigned do not work, chances are a hacker changed them for you. From there, they can make your life difficult as they change additional settings and even lock you out of your wireless access entirely.

Fortunately, you can reverse this by resetting your router. However, log-in difficulties may also arise from software issues. So, if your network behaves normally except for this one issue, check to see if your router’s firmware is current.


Web Browsers Cruise to Unknown Sites

If you have a company or news page as your default homepage, be wary if that suddenly changes. You may find every web address goes to a specific site or your browser opens on an unknown site.

This experience is browser hijacking. It happens when a hacker logs into your router and changes your domain name system (DNS) settings. That system matches the numeric web addresses with their web domain names.

The hack redirects any web traffic in your office to a malicious website that installs malware and steals information. If this happens, you or your IT professional must change the DNS settings and password or reset your router. Once finished, you need to scan every wired and wireless device to ensure they no longer contain malware.


You Find Unknown Software

Unwanted software manifests as new browser toolbars, obnoxious pop-up windows, fake antivirus software that claims to clean your system, and other annoyances. It may infiltrate your system through a hacked router or an unwitting employee opening a phishing email.

If you find this software on one computer, chances are it infects all computers and wireless devices in your office. Malware is excellent at reproducing itself, and once it takes hold of one device, it spreads to all other devices in the network.

To stop this software, first, log into your router and change the password. Then run antivirus software and uninstall the strange programs from your computers and devices. If this is impossible, reset your router.


A “Ghost” Takes Over Your Computer

One day, you are reviewing your office’s financial records, and suddenly the mouse cursor moves on its own and starts copying and pasting sensitive and private information. You cannot stop it because you are no longer in control.

No, this is not the plot of a cyber horror movie. It is something that can happen. Hackers can seize control of your computer through remote access and start opening files and online accounts. If you have stored passwords on your computer or in your browser—uh oh. They will steal them too!

If you see this occur, immediately unplug devices and disconnect the router from your modem. Then, reset the router. After that, start changing passwords on your accounts and business apps immediately.


Ransomware Emails

Ransomware is a message to your email, phone, or other device informing you that a hacker took over your router. Then the message continues to request money to return control of your router to you. You may also see ransomware as a pop-up that takes over your system.

Again, it sounds like cyber horror, but it is a reality. It commonly happens when employees fall victim to phishing and click unknown links. These access emails often claim something wrong with your system or your antivirus software needs updating.

First, instruct your employees to never click on links in emails if they were not expecting them or the source is unknown. If this advice goes unheeded and you receive ransomware, rest your router. Never give in to the extortion. Just change your router password to something impossible to guess.


Unrecognized Devices

Some routers include software that offers a network map. These maps show every device logged into your system. If your router does not contain easily accessible network maps, your  IT professional may have to access it to find recognized devices.

Allowed devices start with the same IP address. For example, if your router’s IP address is 123.456.1.1, all of your device addresses begin with 123.456.1. If a remote device does not have your IP address worked in—kick them off. Once you do so, change the router password.

Also, if you do not use remote access, just turn the feature off. There is no reason to allow it to keep running and opening up vulnerabilities.


Creating Secure Wireless Networks

Wireless security may seem daunting, but fortunately, these risks are preventable. While some of these measures may require help from your IT specialist, you can do many of them yourself.


Lock Up Wi-Fi Routers

Not everything has a technological solution; sometimes, basic physical security makes a big difference. Find a secure location for your Wi-Fi router and modem. This spot may be a file cabinet, office closet, or any other space not accessible to the public. Your office lunchroom or kitchen may not be the best place, as microwave ovens and refrigerators sometimes interview with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi signals.


Change Default Settings

Your Wi-Fi router comes with default settings for easy installation. Once installed, change them. Start with your device’s name; the default name includes the Service Set Identifier (SSID), and hackers can use it to access your system. You also do not want the Wi-Fi name to reflect the manufacturer’s name either because even that is enough for hackers to find a way into your network.

However, your agency name, nickname, or even an inside joke between your employees work as network names. Also, those identifiers make it easier for employees to remember the name.

Also, do not keep the default log-in information. That is just asking for a hacker attack! Create a new router log-in and never share the data except on a need-to-know basis. Your IT contractors may need this information, but there are usually no reasons for agents or clerical staff to long into your router.


Use Strong Passwords

A strong password uses a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. While it is harder to keep track of them, they are more effective at keeping your network safe.

If you are worried about forgetting passwords, use password management software to keep them straight. Advanced packages even allow employees only to have access to specific passwords. Do not write down passwords or store them inside your desk. If you opt to write them down rather than use password management software, keep them in a secure location.


Create a Separate Guest Network

Routers can maintain multiple connections. If you allow guests to use your office Wi-Fi, give them their own network that has no connection to office devices. For example, you may call this separate network Agency Guest and give it its own password. Do not allow anyone other than employees or contractors to access your secured network with your business devices.

You can set up guest wi-fi with its own password or make it a public wi-fi connection. For the best security, keep it password-protected, even if it doesn’t attach to any of your office devices. There are businesses that maintain Wi-Fi hotspots as a public service, but insurance is not appropriate for that. Agencies handle too much sensitive information.


Check for Rogue Access Points

Rogue Access Points are any wireless access point created without your network administrator’s permission. They often form when employees try to gain access when it isn’t available, or hackers attempt cyber attacks.

Ask your IT service provider to perform an access point scan at least once a month. When they find anything suspicious, they can remove and block them.


Choose WPA2 over WPS

Wi-Fi Protected Set-Up (WPS) is available on consumer-grade wireless routers. It makes router set-up easy by making device pairing as simple as pushing a button or entering a PIN.

However, WPA is also beneficial for hackers. Once you set up your router, disable any WPA functions. Then activate Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2, which is the most secure setting. It offers the highest encryption, and hacking into it is nearly impossible.

If your router is capable of Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), do not use it. It is an older security setting that is not as effective as WPA2. If wireless security is an issue in your area, consult with an IT security professional to ensure your router features the highest security settings.


Update, Update, Update

So not ignore security updates for your devices, modems, or routers. Sure, they take time and always seem to pop up at the most inconvenient time.

But they are necessary. Hackers come up with new viruses and malware nearly every day. Security software companies attempt to be ahead of their curve, but sudden malware and viruses developments often lead to an ASAP update. If you do not install these updates promptly, you risk compromising company data.


Use Firewalls

Firewalls are software that limits access to your Wi-Fi networks. They are your first defense against hacking, and they work great–as long as you turn them on.

Check your router’s device settings to see if your firewall is activated. You can also check security settings in your firewall software and ensure they are hard at work. If you have any uncertainty about firewall settings, call your IT specialist. Firewalls will deter hacker attempts, so you want them ready.


Add a VPN

A virtual private network (VPN) adds another layer of protection. It is a hidden network that makes it easier to conceal online activity from snooping public eyes. A VPN works by hiding your IP addresses, which better protects your privacy and business data. It offers upgraded security on private networks and is nearly essential if you use public Wi-Fi at airports, coffee shops, or libraries.

You can use a VPN through your router or install VPN apps on your devices. Some devices, like iPhones and iPads, contain a VPN option in their settings. You can activate it with a switch.

American Agents Alliance helps agency owners navigate the insurance marketplace, including the technological challenges of wireless technology. Our E&O insurance services even include a cyber liability extension–just in case you fall victim to a hacker. Learn more about our member benefits, agency management, and cybersecurity protection through Scott IT Consulting.

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