As many as 44% of UK organisations are likely to ban employees from using public Wi-Fi hotspots despite 92% of them being aware of security challenges that come with using them.

Shockingly, just one in ten UK organisations also feel they have no security concerns with their employees accessing public Wi-Fi hotspots.

Security challenges around public Wi-Fi hotspots are immense- especially because of poor security hygiene as well as the likelihood of man-in-the-middle attacks. While security agencies and tech firms have been vocal about such challenges for many years, organisations in the UK are not very keen on either banning use of public Wi-Fi hotspots or even limiting it to a degree.

The iPass annual mobile security report 2017 compiled responses of 500 organisations from the U.S., U.K., Germany and France and found that public Wi-Fi hotspots pose security challenges. However this is an accepted risk by up to 93% organisations. At the same time, half of the polled businesses feel ‘very concerned’ about security challenges attracted by a growing mobile workforce. Interestingly, an increasing number of companies in Europe and the United States are now taking steps to ban their employees from using public Wi-Fi spots altogether.

However, the UK lags significantly behind France and Germany in this regard. While only 8% and 15% of organisations in Germany and France are likely to ban the use of public Wi-Fi hotspots by their employees, 44% of organisations in the UK are contemplating banning the use of such hotspots altogether.

The iPass report further reveals that C-level executives, including CEOs, are most vulnerable to cyber-attacks as they often work outside offices and make extensive use of public Wi-Fi hotspots. 42% of organisations believe the chances of their employees being victimised by man-in-the-middle attacks are the highest in cafes and coffee shops, followed by airports (30%), hotels (16%) and exhibition centres (16%).

“The grim reality is that C-level executives are by far at the greatest risk of being hacked outside of the office. They are not your typical 9-5 office worker. They often work long hours, are rarely confined to the office, and have unrestricted access to the most sensitive company data imaginable. They represent a dangerous combination of being both highly valuable and highly available, therefore a prime target for any hacker,” said Raghu Konka, vice president of engineering at iPass.

“Cafés and coffee shops are everywhere and offer both convenience and comfort for mobile workers, who flock to these venues for the free high-speed internet as much as for the coffee. However, cafés invariably have lax security standards, meaning that anyone using these networks will be potentially vulnerable,” he added.

However, Konka also believes that public Wi-Fi hotspots are instrumental in increasing effectiveness and productivity of employees as they can access their e-mails and data at all times even while travelling. Instead of banning the use of public Wi-Fi hotspots, organisations should take steps to ensure that their employees can work securely at all times and have the tools in place to assure security from external threats.

“Sadly, in response to this growing threat, the majority of organisations are choosing to ban first and think later. They ignore the fact that, in an increasingly mobile world, there are actually far more opportunities than threats. Rather than give into security threats and enforce bans that can be detrimental or even unenforceable, businesses must instead ensure that their mobile workers have the tools to get online and work securely at all times,” he added.

According to the iPass report, 75 percent of enterprises around the globe actively encourage the use of MiFi devices. However, in Germany, France, UK and the United States, 68% of organisations have chosen to ban employee use of free public Wi-Fi hotspots to some degree and 33% of them have banned its use altogether. While the report does claim that UK organisations are not as upfront in banning the use of public Wi-Fi hotspots, it doesn’t delve on whether such companies are investing in security tools to ensure that employees can access such hotspots and remain secure from threats at the same time.

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