According to Statista projections, there will be some 22,400 coworking spaces worldwide by the end of 2019. By the end of 2018, there were approximately 1.65 million people worldwide working in coworking spaces.
Taking up a coworking space comes with many advantages but 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.
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 public locations. You may not know what network security measures exist if any, and you may not have appropriate protection on your devices.
In fact, it is said that there are two types of companies today, those that have been hacked and those that are yet to be hacked. If you fall in the first category though, the question is never WHAT IF but WHEN you get hacked.
As much coworking spaces come with a myriad of advantages, being a common space for many people, hackers have several ways to exploit coworking vulnerabilities to compromise your devices. For instance, 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.
Hackers can also set up a spoofed network designed to intercept traffic intended for the office connection.
One of the easiest and common ways is Wi-Fi sniffing, which is a technique hackers use to examine the data transferred over public networks.
Through wi-fi sniffing, hackers can easily access data ranging from usernames, passwords to your browser history. Once they have access obtained from sniffing they can easily get an application onto your system, use a compromised device in the space for phishing or physically install it while you aren’t paying attention.
Coworking spaces being home to most of startups and SMBs, it is essential that these companies know how vital their data is.
At Nairobi Garage, apart from having top network security teams who help strengthen our network for our members, we encourage them to:
// Update their operating system, web browsers and other apps frequently.
// Ensure they always disable automatic connections to Wi-Fi networks.
// Use secure websites, especially for sensitive transactions.
// Use encrypted cloud services: While cloud storage makes for an ideal backup solution, it can also be more prone to hackers if you’re not careful about the cloud services you choose.
// Use caution anytime they’re searching for any topic known for spam or malware: This often happens with extremely popular search topics, such as pharmaceuticals and celebrities. Because so many people search for these topics, it’s easy for hackers to set up websites that are essentially fake, designed for clicks and malicious files.
// Use the public network configuration when connecting to the coworking network this setting disables file and folder sharing
// Choose a safe, reputable email provider.
// Use secure websites, especially for sensitive transactions: When you’re conducting a financial transaction or sharing other sensitive information, always use a secure website to do so. Secure Socket Layers (SSL) is a commonly used website security protocol that provides additional protection for data as it’s transmitted through the Internet.
// Take stock of their digital footprint: With your digital information scattered everywhere over the course of a lifetime, it’s important to think about what valuable information you have where. For example, how many web sites are storing your credit card information? How many have up-to-date card numbers and expiration dates? Where do you have important documents, files and videos across the web?
// Not send passwords or account login credentials over public or unsecured Wi-Fi networks: When you send passwords to do this, you are broadcasting to everyone within the radius of your wireless signal, which can be several hundred feet, all of your personal information and account information.
// Use firewalls, network activity monitors and anti-virus software
// Create strong passwords and change them regularly – enable two-step authentication on business-critical accounts
// Not leave their devices unattended – you never know who might be snooping around!
// Add encryption to their browsing and throw hackers off the scent comes from virtual private networks (VPN)
// And finally be mindful of their online reputation: Any information you enter on social networking websites, accounts, or any other website could potentially be up for grabs in the event of a data breach. In general, the information you put online contributes to your online reputation, which can impact your business and even in a relationship with other people like investors or even business partners.