As consumers go out in today’s world, it’s not hard to find free public WiFi. It’s not only everywhere, consumers have also come to expect it to be everywhere — especially business destinations. WiFi has become a necessity for brick-and-mortar establishments, with 96% of consumers preferring businesses that provide free public WiFi.
Not only are consumers actively seeking out free WiFi, but they’re also connecting to networks unknowingly. How many times have you pulled out your phone or laptop to connect to a network and found that you were already on it? The default of most devices is to automatically search for available WiFi networks and to connect to WiFi that it’s previously connected to.
Why is this a concern? Though convenient, open networks pose some potential risks for consumers and businesses. Fortunately, there are alternatives that benefit both parties.
In this article, we cover:
- Why consumers should care about public WiFi safety
- Why businesses should be aware of open WiFi dangers
- Safe alternatives for businesses who offer free WiFi
- How businesses benefit from secure WiFi technology
Why Consumers Should Care About Public WiFi Safety
Back in 2017, but still relevant today, Norton released a compelling video showing consumers what can happen when their device is connected to a compromised WiFi network. In this demonstration, participants are instructed to connect to a free, open WiFi network. They are then told to scroll through their phones as usual.
The participants are made aware that they’ve connected to a purposely hacked network. The pretend hackers walk the participants through the potential threats so they can see exactly what happens during an attack. Some of the threats include:
- A hacker has the ability to see if your phone is behind on updates, allowing them to exploit security bugs.
- A hacker can view your device activity and use these details to plan an attack. For example, if you are online shopping, the hacker can view this activity. They can then email you a gift card to that particular store and lead you to a fake website in an attempt to capture your personal information.
- A hacker can cause pop-ups so you click into certain websites unintentionally.
- A hacker can redirect your web activity to fake or malicious sites without your knowledge
Even when the odds are low, there is always the risk of the device being compromised when using an open WiFi network. Below is a list of resources consumers should use to learn more about the dangers of open WiFi and how to avoid them.
Resources for Consumers
- A COVID-19-Driven Increase in Telework from Hotels Could Pose a Cyber Security Risk for Guests
- How to Safely Use Public WiFi Networks
- Why You Should Change This ‘Dangerous’ WiFi Setting on Your Phone
Why Businesses Should Care About Public WiFi Safety
Open WiFi is appealing to businesses due to the low maintenance. They don’t have to set up encryption and run security tests, and often don’t have the resources internally to do so anyway. They also don’t have to continuously inform guests of the WiFi password. All in all, it’s low hassle and low cost. So why should businesses care about going the extra mile to offer secure WiFi? Here are a few of the business risks associated with open WiFi.
Loss of Personal Data
Hackers can set up lookalike networks that use parts of your business’s name to lure in unsuspecting customers. These hotspots use a variety of strategies to see what data is being transmitted, giving the attacker visibility into financial transactions from your customers’ and staff’s devices and potentially your own POS.
Liability & Costs
In the event of a data breach, a business can be held liable if they fail to implement safeguards moving forward, remedy or mitigate the damage, and notify affected individuals. These situations are also harmful to the business’s reputation.
Pirates can download movies, software, or music using a significant amount of network bandwidth. This overload causes glitchy or slow services. Additionally, the way a device connects to a wireless router can vary significantly depending on device type, operating system, and router type. This inconsistency leads to less reliable customer data collection, and determining a consumer’s duration and activity in-store can be challenging.
Many consumers are already aware of the potential threats of open WiFi and an increasing number of them are choosing more secure options. Across the Adentro network, more than 60% of all consumers are actively selecting secure connectivity over unsecured open networks. As data and privacy concerns only continue to rise, businesses that choose to offer secure WiFi now will likely have a leg-up on their competition in the near future.
What is the Alternative?
Fortunately, there is an alternative and simple way to offer safe, secure WiFi through encryption. By definition, secure WiFi is the use of passwords and secure encryption methods to send wireless data between a mobile device and the internet connection point. Investing in a secure network ultimately helps prevent liability, ensure efficient operations, protect sensitive information, and provide a better customer experience.
“When users enroll into Secure WiFi, each wireless device receives a unique credential that allows positive attribution of the users’ proximity to the WiFi Access Point, allowing Adentro, along with other signals, to accurately determine when customers walk into your establishment. This provides a convenient, secure, and seamless experience for your customers.”David Dodsworth, Director of Security, Privacy, and Compliance, Adentro
Additionally, a secure WiFi network helps businesses build better customer relationships and profiles through first-party data. With a reliable first-party database, businesses can develop personalized marketing campaigns based on visit behavior, targeting one-time, return, or lapsed customers.
Getting Started with Secure WiFi
Businesses looking to take advantage of all the benefits secure WiFi provides have the option of in-house or external management. When deciding between these two options, businesses should consider a few trade-offs.
Running a secure WiFi network in-house will take time to set up and maintain. Network security is a constant and evolving undertaking. Making sure someone on your team has the capacity to do this is important since it takes regular reporting and monitoring. One benefit though is that this is often a cheaper option.
Another factor is usernames and passwords. The ongoing log-in process can deter guests from using WiFi. The benefit of external management is the ability to offer single sign-on (SSO) that automatically connects customers to the network after that initial login.
One last thing to keep in mind is data collection. As mentioned above, secure WiFi gives businesses the ability to collect first-party data. How exactly does this work? By adjusting configurations on in-store WiFi access points, an external management company can identify who connects to that network. From there, they can build out a CRM, measuring things like demographic information, peak traffic hours, average guest dwell time, and more. Through external management, businesses are assured that this data is accurate and reliable.
Having a digital partner like Adentro manage your network and its security has numerous advantages. First and foremost, network management can often be done entirely remotely, which means you don’t have to set up in-person appointments or infringe upon your business schedule. Between disciplined IT professionals and the latest security developments, having a team of experts in your digital corner can also catch small issues before they become big ones, saving you time and money.
Additionally, Adentro is a member of the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), a 150+ member alliance with the shared goal of driving seamless and interoperable Wi-Fi experience around the globe.
Here are the powerful benefits your business gets with Adentro Secure WiFi:
Safest Browsing Experience
Adentro’s Secure WiFi offers you, your customers, and staff the safest WiFi experience possible with industry-standard Passpoint technology, which provides enterprise-level encryption.
Integration is straightforward, taking less than 10 minutes with compatible access points. If your hardware is not compatible, Adentro offers hardware upgrade programs to meet your business needs.
Enhanced Data Accuracy
All devices connect with the servers in the same consistent manner, enabling businesses to have greater visibility into customer behavior.
Seamless Connectivity Experience
After a one-time authentication process, guests get instant secure WiFi access as soon as they enter any of your storefronts (even across multiple locations) — no lag time, no passwords to remember, no friction.
Customer Contact Collection to Fuel CRM
The ability to build a reliable first-party database allows businesses to develop personalized marketing campaigns based on visit behavior, targeting one-time, return, or lapsed customers. Finally having visibility and analytics on your in-store customers will help you create more effective marketing communications.