Corporate networks are constantly under siege by hackers. Consequently, organizations need solutions that protect their information. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) offer them an effective technique for ensuring that intruders do not sneak off with their data as they traverse the enterprise network.

Mobility is the biggest benefits that Wi-Fi networks offer Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs). The widespread adoption of wireless connections has changed how work gets done. Employees are no longer chained to their desks. They often work remotely, getting closer to customers or having quiet time, so they can focus on tasks at home. Such connectivity makes workers more productive.

But like any advancement, wireless networking comes with a price. As employees roam at remote corporate offices and beyond, they open themselves up to possible intrusion. Make no mistake, the bad guys are quite busy trying to break into business computers. In fact, a hacker attacks a system somewhere every 39 seconds, according to a study at the University of Maryland. While breaches at large organizations gain national headlines, 76% of SMBs reported a cyberattack within the previous 12 months, according to a Ponemon Institute.

Security Holes Open Up

Hackers attack because networks offer them – as well as legit users — an entryway. Such openings are plentiful when employees work off site from their home or public Wi-Fi hotspots, such as a coffee shop, airport, or hotel. In many cases, these networks do not have any security checks, leaving personal data open to intrusion.

Compounding the problem, wireless network designs have shortcomings. To ensure security, Wi-Fi networks started with the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol, whose goal was to make wireless networks as secure as their wired counterparts. However, the way that the designers deployed one security element, an RC4 cypher, created openings. The misstep allows re-use of one element, and hackers leveraged that feature to break into wireless networks.

Another challenge is access points are shipped with a default SSID (Service Set Identifier) and a password. Customers need to change the password, but often leave them in place. In some cases, an SMB lacks the technical expertise to understand how and why to make the change. In other cases, they are so busy that they neglect to take that step. Knowing the default settings, an attacker can login and take control of the router, change settings or the firmware, load malicious scripts, and even change a network server so that all traffic is directed to an IP owned by the attacker. So, companies may need a third party network specialist to help with their installation.

In addition, organizations can be careless when deploying their wireless access points. If one is stationed in a public location, it can be physically accessed and tampered with. It takes just seconds to reset the access point to factory default settings. So businesses need to make sure that access points are located in a secure location, such as a locked closet.

VPNs Close Security Holes

Virtual Private Networks (VPN) improves network security. They help companies protect interactions, like web sessions, data transmissions, financial transactions, company data, and personal information. These tools are quite popular: worldwide revenue from sales of these systems is expected to increase from $15.3 billion in 2016 to $18.2 in 2022, according to Market Research Future.

VPN software establishes a private, controlled, company network connection. The link between a user’s device and company servers is encrypted, making it difficult for eavesdroppers to access information. In addition, VPNs thwart network providers who want to monitor where employees go when they surf the Internet. Increasingly, these companies collect personal browsing habits and sell that data to third parties, like advertisers.

But VPNs are not panaceas and create a few hurdles for organizations, starting with decreased performance. A VPN adds extra steps, which means delays, to moving information from point A to point B. The distance between the user and the VPN server is a prime factor in the level of response time degradation. Also encrypting information is a complex process. The better, more powerful the encryption technique, the less likely that is will be breached but the more probable that it will slow the transmission down.

Criminals are busy trying to break into enterprise networks. Wireless connections offer companies potential productivity gains but open up new security holes, which hackers are adept at exploiting. VPNs add a line of defense to thwart such efforts but impact items, like network performance, so businesses should deploy these tools carefully.

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