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Free Wi-Fi: Why Government and Contractors Need to Get Smart

By iPass Staff Writer

Free Wi-Fi: Why governments and consultants need to get smart

The best things in life are free.

Except "free" Wi-Fi.

Mom may have told you there was no such thing as a free lunch.  When it comes to "free connectivity," she was right. I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to warn of imminent identity theft and personal privacy violation to be found on free wi-fi networks.

For government workers, a breach can be personally and professionally catastrophic.

As the line between personal and professional lines becomes increasingly blurred, it is no longer enough to require employees to carry two phones or maintain two accounts. Trusting that they will only connect to a secure, land-line LAN is highly impracticable and cripples a mobile workforce.

I can attest that government employees check their personal email accounts on their government phones, respond to work-related text messages on their personal devices, pull out their government charge cards in cramped coach-class proximity to strangers to purchase in-flight connectivity, buy their spouses’ birthday presents with PayPal on their tablets and may use a government-issued laptop to Skype home while serving overseas. They log on in cafes, in libraries and unsecured residential networks across the globe.

These activities are scary enough when you think about the implications for the individual user.  Imagine the implications for national security, proprietary health or legal information or intellectual property.

Some agencies have pieced together VPNs that protect data for part of its journey, but leave it completely exposed at other, more vulnerable junctions, such as when a mobile device is used to connect to a public access point.

Firewalls, physical protections such as common access cards, requirements to use a wired local area network, etc. can only do so much.  They are each a slice of cheese in that stack of Swiss and there’s always a chance that the holes will align.

Even 4G has its security concerns and expecting that users will only use cellular or satellite service is a recipe for unconscionable overages at the tax payers’ expense.

A comprehensive mobile security strategy needs to protect all of a user’s personal and work devices. It needs to facilitate safe, secure connections instead of expecting users to haphazardly find service and connect. It needs to be reliable, connected to local infrastructure, secure, and predictably priced. For the foreseeable future, it needs to be iPass.