By Nicholas Greene
With RSA 2012 kicking off next week, then Interop and BlackHat just around the corner after that – we are officially in trade show season. Of course, every show brings with it the challenge of connecting to its official Wi-Fi connection to plug back into corporate headquarters to do everything from email to sending documents and beyond. And as most of us know, this could invite a barrage of security vulnerabilities.
Of course, at IT conferences like Interop and Black Hat, you’ll find yourself with a better class of wireless network– it’s more or less a given that their Wi-Fi connections will be more secure than those at many other trade shows, as the organizers know enough to take an active role in securing the data of attendees. But the real risks come in when, for example, connecting via a hotel or a café near the show – or worse, a rogue unsecured network that tricks users into signing on with a strangely “official sounding” name.
So how will you stay safe this trade show season? In short, VPNs are the key. A VPN will give you all the security you’d get from a private network, and places it into a public arena; opening the requisite ports for easier connectivity, keeping your activities anonymous from others on the network, and encrypting any data you send between yourself and the server.
Unlike with unsecure (and even secure) wireless networks, no known exploits currently exist that are capable of subverting the security on most of the well-designed Virtual Private Networks. While it’s certainly true that a user connected to a VPN can interact with other systems on the network as though they were local, the users of those systems should generally be trustworthy, if you’ve implemented a proper VPN solution.
If you’re connecting to a corporate network, there’s a good chance that the company will already have some sort of VPN solution in place- all that’s left in such a situation is to set it up to run on your own system, and you’ll be golden. Generally, this is as simple as installing the client software for whatever solution you’re running- your company should provide it for you before you leave for the show.
If you’re not an enterprise attendee, or your company doesn’t yet have a VPN solution implemented, it might be worth looking into getting one- NCP has several VPN clients available– for enterprise users, the centrally managed solution’s ideal.
More on VPNs and trade show security next time.