Last Updated on October 7, 2021
As I’m certain you’ve heard on more than one occasion, mobile technology isn’t going to go away. Smartphones and tablets are today as much a part of our lives as electricity. What that means from an event management perspective is that it’s expected – or more like demanded – by attendees that a public WiFi connection is available at the events they attend.
After all, they need to be able to connect to the Internet in order to share their experience, don’t they?
It’s not just mobile technology, either. As I’ve noted on more than one occasion, embedded devices – in short, the Internet of Things – are going to start playing a huge role in modern events. Catering to that connectivity will not only keep your attendees happy, but also open up new avenues through which you can enrich your events, engaging with your audience on a level above anything seen before.
It’s not just guests, either. Keynote speakers may need to access materials or note stored in the cloud. Vendors might require access to platforms they’ve linked up to their point of sale systems. Your events team might be using a cloud platform which requires Internet access to function.
In short, wireless connectivity is kind of important – but this is all stuff you already know, I’m certain. What you might not know is that simply offering a connection may not always be enough, even if it’s got enough bandwidth to support everyone. Perhaps I should explain.
See, everyone knows that unsecured hotspots are kind of bad news, right? That you wouldn’t want to deal with sensitive data at an airport or coffee shop? What I’d like to drive home here is how hazardous they can be – and therefore why it’s imperative that the connection you provide to your attendees is secured.
The best way to do that, I think, is by showing you exactly what a savvy attacker can see on an unsecured connection.
For that, we’re going to turn to PC World’s Eric Geier, who recently set out to answer that precise question.
“I parked myself at my local coffee shop the other day to soak up the airwaves and see what I could see,” explained Geier. “My intent was just to listen.”
What Geier found was that it was actually extremely easy to capture sensitive data at the vast majority of public hotspots – everything from web-pages to FTP login credentials to entire user accounts was basically fair game. Geier even managed to hack his own Facebook account through an app called DroidSheep. A little concerning, no?
Alright, now that we’ve driven home the importance of securing the WiFi connection at your events, it’s time for the next question: how can you go about actually doing so?
There are a few possible methods, actually. First and foremost, if you’re hosting at a venue with its own wireless connection, I’d recommend having a chat with the venue owner. Talk to them at length about exactly how they intend to keep data at your event safe – will data on their network be encrypted? Will guests be able to connect through a VPN?
Same deal if you’re providing the WiFi through a third-party service. What are they doing to keep your guests secure? How are they protecting sensitive information from prying eyes?
In both cases, it might be worthwhile to consider using a service such as Zscaler to provide the necessary security if either your host or your partner falls short.
You need to offer WiFi at your events. Of that, there can be no doubt. With that in mind, it’s not really enough to just provide your guests with an Internet connection. As an event management professional, it’s also your job to ensure that connection is safe enough for them to manage sensitive data.
Otherwise, you’ve only yourself to blame if there’s a breach at one of your events.
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